Doctors issue urgent warning to parents as cases of highly contagious Victorian disease rise across UK | The Sun

DOCTORS have urged parents to get their children vaccinated against measles.

Cases of the highly contagious Victorian disease are rising across the UK – but jab uptake is at a "shockingly bad" low.

Dr Neil O'Brien, medical director of the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said immunisation is "one of the most important things" any mum or dad can do.

He said: "We know that vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical invention in history.

"One person with measles can infect nine out of 10 close contacts.

"We're asking all parents, carers and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with both MMR doses and fully protected.


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"It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free whatever your age."

The expert warned that there were no cases of measles in the North East between 2019 and 2022, but the infection is now spreading.

The latest figures show there were 49 cases in the UK in the first four months of 2023, compared to 54 in the whole of last year.

Kirsten Watters, Camden Council’s director of health and wellbeing, described this increase as "extremely concerning".

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She added: "Measles is highly infectious and can cause serious and life threatening complications.

"It can also damage the immune system, putting you at risk of other infections even after you have recovered.

"I urge parents to check that their child has had two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is particularly important if they are at nursery, school, college or university."

The illness, characterised by a red-brown blotchy rash or spots, can lead to serious health complications like meningitis and pneumonia.

In rare cases, it can result in disability or can be fatal.

An estimated 128,000 people globally died from measles in 2021, according to the World Health Organization.

Most deaths were among the unvaccinated or children under the age of five.

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is part of routine childhood immunisations.

It nearly wiped out the bug in the 2010s, but fewer people have been taking up the offer and Britain lost its "elimination" status in 2019 when there were 880 cases.


Jab rates in England are still well short (85 per cent) of the 95 per cent population coverage the WHO says is needed to curb outbreaks.

Uptake varies hugely in England, dropping significantly in some areas of London, according to UK Health Security (UKHSA) data.

In Hackney, east London, just 55.2 per cent of five-year-olds had both doses of the MMR jab.

"This is shockingly bad and is begging for a big outbreak," Prof Helen Bedford, an expert in child public health at University College London, previously told The Sun.

"There is no question, we're going to see a surge of cases if things continue this way.

"So far, we've only seen limited outbreaks across the country, but we're likely to see more."

NHS vaccines director Steve Russell said in May: "Since vaccination for measles cases was introduced, over 4,500 lives have been saved.

"The MMR vaccine has helped prevent the development of potentially life-threatening illness among millions, and it is clear that when uptake falls, infections rise.

"I strongly urge parents to review the status of their child’s vaccinations so they can keep them and others protected from measles, mumps and rubella."

Measles is one of the world’s most infectious viruses and spreads by coughs, sneezes and close physical contact.

Most people recover quickly from the disease, but the worst cases can trigger pneumonia, brain damage or death.

All kids are offered two doses of the jab at ages one and three.

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Anyone can catch up on missed injections for free at any age.

Parents can check that their children are fully up to date by checking their vaccine record in the red book.

What the are the symptoms of measles?

MEASLES usually starts with cold-like symptoms.

These include:

  • a high temperature
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • red, sore, watery eyes

Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later, usually lasting a few days.

And a blotchy rash tends to pop up a few days after the symptoms, starting on the face and behind the ears and then spreading to the rest of the body.

It'll look brown or red on white skin but may be harder to spot on brown or black skin.

The spots of the measles rash are sometimes raised and join together to form blotchy patches. They're not usually itchy.

You should ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you think you or your child have measles, or if you've been in close contact with someone who has it and haven't had two MMR doses or had the disease before.

Anyone can get measles if they haven't been vaccinated or they haven't had it before.

It usually clears in seven to 10 days but can lead to other serious complications.

Source: NHS 

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