Plea to get measles jab as Hartlepool sees huge rise in disease

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HARTLEPOOL saw a huge rise in month-on-month measles cases according to the latest Government figures.

There were 33 cases of measles in the town in the first four months of this year as health chiefs are urging people who have never been vaccinated to get protected.

There were 20 confirmed cases of the deadly virus in April, compared to 11 in March and only two in February and none in January.

Figures for County Durham, which includes Peterlee and East Durham, show there have been five confirmed cases so far this year.

Stockton, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard, had 81 confirmed cases in the first four months of this year, with the peak in february when there were 40 cases.

The figures for the North East Public Health England (PHE) Centre show 111 cases of the preventable, infectious disease were reported in the North East this April, on top of 209 cases from January to March this year.

The North-East reported the highest number of confirmed cases in April, reflecting the on-going outbreak in Teesside.

The national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers has so far resulted in more than 95 per cent of GP practices across England ordering extra doses of the vaccine – over 200,000 extra in total.

This age group is most at risk of measles due to the fall in coverage of MMR that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread.

Dr Roberta Marshall, centre director for the North East PHE Centre, said: “Our ambition is to vaccinate 95 per cent of 10 to 16-year-olds in time for the next school year.

“Local public health teams have been working hard to encourage uptake with children and teenagers in the region.

“The message to parents who think their child may not be fully immunised is to check today and book an appointment with your GP. The vaccine is there ready to be used and could save your child’s life.

“Measles is a serious illness and can lead to serious complications, including hospitalisation in more than one in five cases among teens this year.

“And in response to the ongoing outbreak in Teesside, school based vaccination clinics have already been held in over 120 schools, vaccinating more than 2,000 primary and secondary school age children.

“We will shortly be implementing a new monitoring system that will allow us to know the number of vaccines actually received.

“We are continuing to work closely with NHS partners to ensure we have accurate records of children who have missed vaccination, to help guide effective local decision making about possible additional targeted activity.

“The only way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups, and having accurate records of who is at risk is absolutely crucial to the success of this programme.”