Doctors Issue Warning as Measles Returns To East Cambs After 10-Year Absence

PUBLISHED: 20:21 19 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:29 04 May 2010

MEASLES has returned to East Cambridgeshire after a 10-year absence, and doctors are warning parents of the dangers of not vaccinating children against the disease. Three young babies, between the ages of four and 17 months, contracted measles in July, b

MEASLES has returned to East Cambridgeshire after a 10-year absence, and doctors are warning parents of the dangers of not vaccinating children against the disease.

Three young babies, between the ages of four and 17 months, contracted measles in July, but between 1998 and 2008 there were no cases at all, according to figures collated by the Staploe Medical Centre in Soham.

East Cambridgeshire has seen the biggest rise in cases - 12 people contracted measles in the area, and the only other case this summer was in Peterborough.

One of the babies caught measles from an older sibling who had not been given the MMR vaccine.

"Two of these cases are in children unimmunised, despite being over the age for first MMR immunisation - it is uncertain whether this was due to delay or refusal," said Dr Richard Burnford, a GP at Soham Staploe Medical Centre.

"When immunisation rates fall the disease has a higher prevalence in the community and all unimmunised people become at risk - the message is have your children immunised and have them immunised on time."

Dr Kate King of the public health protection team for Cambridgeshire PCT, said: "It seems to be, as we would expect in the summer months, children and families who each other and remain in close contact. Around 80 per cent of children in East Cambridgeshire have been recorded as having two doses of the MMR vaccine - consistent with the rest of the county - but that is not enough to prevent the disease occurring completely."

A majority of children are given the a dose of combined Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccination at 12-15 months, then again between the ages of three and five. However, doctors say some parents are still opting out, despite extensive research disproving any link between the vaccine and autism. In 1998 a controversial study by two UK doctors claimed a link, which has been largely disproved by researchers. Only 12 children were surveyed and some of those had taken a single dose vaccine.

Despite cheap vaccination programmes - each MMR dose costs less than 20p - measles is still the biggest child killer in the world. Two of those who contracted measles in July needed in-patient hospital treatment.

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 1million people die from it each year - the vast majority in developing countries with no national immunisation programme.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR.

Early symptoms of measles include a fever, runny nose and cough, followed by a red-brown rash which initially appears on the face, then spreads to the chest and back. The virus is at its most infectious before the rash develops and is spread by airborne droplets of saliva. The disease can last up to 14 days and is usually fought off by the body's immune system, but in rare cases can cause inflammation of the brain.

All those infected in Soham made a full recovery.

INFO: www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk

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