Outbreak of Measles Sweeps Through the North West Region

Local health organisations are urging people to ensure their vaccinations are up to date and remain vigilant for cases of measles, as clusters of confirmed cases have emerged in the region.

Today, the UK Health Security Agency released data revealing that there have been 24 reported cases of measles in the North West between 1 October 2023 and 13 February 2024. This marks a rise of 14 cases compared to the previous week’s data. The majority of these cases have occurred in Greater Manchester.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is collaborating with local authority public health teams and the NHS to monitor the situation, offer guidance, and support local communities in taking necessary precautions, such as getting vaccinated.

Dr Matthieu Pegorie, Health Protection Consultant for UKHSA North West, commented: “Measles can be a severe infection, particularly for young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“Over the past decade, MMR vaccine coverage has been declining, with 1 in 10 children in England starting school without protection. Consequently, there is a real risk that this outbreak could spread more extensively across the North West.

“Parents should be aware that measles can have serious consequences for most children, and unfortunately, it can be life-altering for some. However, it is entirely preventable. Vaccination is the most effective way to safeguard yourself and your children. I strongly urge parents to take advantage of the offer and protect their child as soon as possible.”

“Moreover, it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms, as the measles virus is highly contagious.”

Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, Regional Director of Commissioning at NHS England in the North West, added: “The MMR vaccine provides the best protection against measles, a highly contagious and potentially dangerous disease in certain cases.

“Last week, thousands of school-aged children in the North West who have not yet received one or both doses of the MMR vaccine began receiving invitations from the NHS to schedule a catch-up appointment.

“Although the recent increase in cases is concerning, measles is a preventable illness, and two doses of the vaccine are sufficient to provide lifelong protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. Therefore, I encourage parents to accept the vaccination offer if their child has not yet received one or both doses.”

Dr Helen Wall, Clinical Director for Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester, emphasized: “Ensuring that both you and your child are fully vaccinated against measles is of utmost importance. This not only safeguards you and your family from the illness but also protects vulnerable individuals you come into contact with, such as babies, toddlers, and the elderly.

“Since the introduction of the initial measles vaccine into the routine childhood immunisation programme in 1968, it is estimated that over 20 million cases and 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK. Unfortunately, due to a decade-long decline in childhood vaccine uptake, we are now witnessing a resurgence of measles.”

“Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms, as the measles virus is highly contagious.”

Symptoms of measles typically appear 7-10 days after exposure to the virus and include:

  • Cold-like symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, and coughing
  • Red, sore, watery eyes
  • A high temperature (fever) that may reach around 40°C / 104°F
  • A non-itchy, red-brown rash that usually emerges 3-5 days later (sometimes starting around the ears before spreading to the rest of the body); spots may be raised and merge to form blotchy patches, which might be more challenging to detect on darker skin tones
  • Small white spots may also appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips (lasting a few days)

For further information on symptoms, please refer to the provided resources.

Measles is highly transmissible, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and can easily spread in nurseries and schools. Certain groups, including infants, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems, face a heightened risk of complications from measles.

If you or a family member experiences any symptoms of measles, contact your GP by telephone. Do not visit your GP, walk-in centre, or any other healthcare facility without calling in advance, as measles is highly contagious.

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