Get jab call as measles cases rise

PARENTS are being urged to get their children immunised in the wake of a rise in the numbers of cases of measles in the region.

Health officials in Hartlepool say an outbreak of measles across the North-East has seen dozens of unvaccinated children and people aged 10 to 30 contracting the condition.

Bosses are urging people to get their children vaccinated as the latest figures show one in seven children could be at risk of contracting the condition as they have not been immunised.

Latest figures show that between July and September last year, 95.3 per cent of children in the town had the first MMR jab by the time they were five but just 85.6 per cent had the second jab to give them full protection.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that since the beginning of September 2012, when the numbers started increasing, 63 confirmed cases and 63 suspected cases of the illness have now been reported.

This is an increase of seven confirmed and 14 suspected cases on the previous week.

A previous outbreak in Hartlepool in 2009 saw specialist clinics set up in several schools after around 60 cases of measles were confirmed and a further 70 were suspected.

Now a poster campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the latest regional outbreak and to inform those with symptoms of measles of the actions they need to take.

These are being sent to GP practices, walk-in centres, hospitals, schools, leisure centres and youth centres across the region.

Dr Mike Smith, Hartlepool locality lead for NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I urge any parent whose children are not vaccinated with MMR to make an appointment at their GP practice as soon as possible. The MMR vaccine is safe and effective, and can prevent illnesses that have real potential to cause serious harm.

“Measles is caused by a very infectious virus. The virus is passed on through direct contact with someone who is infected, for example by kissing them or through breathing in contaminated air.

“Measles should not be taken lightly as you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). That’s why it’s incredibly important to remember that measles isn’t a ‘harmless’ childhood disease and why we are urging parents to make sure that their children are fully immunised and have had both doses of the MMR vaccine.”

The viral illness begins with a fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

This is followed with a rash that starts on the face and upper neck a few days later, and then spreads down the upper body, extending to the arms, hands, legs and feet.