Measles outbreak warning

Doctors encourage vaccination against measles.
Doctors encourage vaccination against measles.

MORE than 120 cases of measles have been confirmed by doctors across St Helens and Knowsley already this year.

Concerned health chiefs are urging parents to vaccinate their children following a large outbreak of the disease across the region.

There have been 33 laboratory confirmed cases in St Helens and Halton since the outbreak began at the start of February and 90 in neighbouring Knowsley.

Dr Anjila Shah, a consultant with the region’s Health Protection Unit, said: “Measles is clearly circulating in the community. It’s a highly infectious disease and the only protection against it is the MMR vaccine.”

The first dose of MMR should be given at 13 months and the second at approximately 40 months, before the child goes to school.

However, older children, teenagers and young adults who missed out as toddlers can still be vaccinated.

Dr Shah added: “People who aren’t sure if they were vaccinated as children should ask their family doctor. The GP will be able to advise and arrange vaccination if required.

“People who aren’t registered with a GP practice should register now.”

The Health Protection Agency is advising people with symptoms of measles to stay away from school, nursery or work until five days have elapsed since the onset of the rash.

You should telephone your GP or NHS walk-in centre before attending so that arrangements can be made for you to be treated in isolation from other patients and avoid contact with people, but particularly babies, pregnant women and anyone who is known to have poor immunity.

Measles is an infectious viral illness spread through coughing and sneezing.

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, sore eyes and a rash that develops 3-4 days after the onset of illness, starting with the face and head and spreading down the body.

To find out more, go online at: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk