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Public Health Wales: New measles cases prompt call for MMR vaccination as school holidays begin

Posted on Monday 24th July 2017

With two new cases of measles confirmed in an ongoing outbreak, Public Health Wales is urging parents to ensure their children are protected as school summer holidays begin.

The two new measles cases bring the total number of confirmed cases in the outbreak affecting the Newport and Torfaen areas to 10.

Summer holidays abroad, events and festivals all present the opportunity for measles to spread between unvaccinated children.

The Gwent area outbreak has been caused by the same strain of measles that has affected more than 14,000 people across Europe this year and which has killed 35 people.

There is an increased risk to unvaccinated children travelling to mainland Europe over the summer. They are also at risk here in Wales if they come into contact with a UK resident or overseas visitor who has measles.

Dr Rhianwen Stiff, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said: "The start of school holidays may mean children coming into contact with people they wouldn't normally meet, either on holiday or at clubs or large events here in Wales.

"Measles can pass easily between people who are not vaccinated. We are urging parents in Newport, Torfaen and across Wales to ensure their children are up to date with two doses of MMR.

"We are also reminding parents that children who have a rash should not be taken to the GP surgery or A&E department without phoning ahead first. This is important to make sure that arrangements can be put in place before you arrive, for example so that you don't share a waiting room with a young baby. We have already seen cases of measles in the Gwent outbreak in children too young to be vaccinated who are most likely to have become infected in A&E, and this continues to be a risk."

Children with measles symptoms - which include a high temperature, cough, runny nose, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and a distinctive red rash - should be kept home from school, nurseries and social events such as holiday clubs and birthday parties.

Parents who suspect their child has measles should contact their GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 for an assessment. They should alert their health care providers of the symptoms before attending any appointment.

Measles is highly infectious and the only way to prevent large outbreaks is through vaccination. Parents whose children are not up to date with two doses of MMR should ensure that they contact their GP practice to arrange this quick, safe and effective vaccine.

Adults born since 1970, who have never had measles or the MMR vaccine, are also urged to ensure they contact their surgery about vaccination, especially if they work with children.

The first dose of MMR is usually given to babies at between 12 and 13 months of age, and the second at three years and four months of age, but it is never too late to catch up on missed doses.

About 1 in 5 children with measles can experience serious complications such as ear infections, pneumonia or meningitis. One in 10 children with measles ends up in hospital and in rare cases it can be fatal.

Further information on measles, including a link to a video testimony from a mother whose three year old unvaccinated daughter contracted measles, is available at http://www.publichealthwales.org/measles

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