Measles outbreak in St Helens

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TEN people from the St Helens area have contracted measles amid the most widespread outbreak of the disease in the area since the 1980s.

In total, there have been 301 laboratory-confirmed cases across Merseyside since the start of the year, including 42 in neighbouring Knowsley.

A further 148 probable cases are still under investigation.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, a consultant in communicable disease control with the Health Protection Agency, said: “This has been the largest outbreak of measles in the North West since the introduction of MMR vaccine 24 years ago and it has demonstrated just why this vaccine is so important in protecting the public health.

“Parents of young children clearly value the protection, security and peace of mind that the MMR vaccine affords, but there remains a pool of older children, teenagers and young adults who are not vaccinated and remain vulnerable to measles, mumps and German measles.

“Our message to older teenagers and young adults is that if you were not vaccinated as children, it’s not too late. You should speak to your family doctor about the MMR vaccine because, without its protection, you will remain vulnerable to three potentially very serious diseases.”

Dr Vivancos added: “It is a tribute to the hard work of the team here at the Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit, and to our colleagues in local NHS services, that this outbreak was largely confined to Liverpool and neighbouring areas.

“Their efforts were immense. At one time we had an operations centre open seven days a week.”

Meanwhile, health bosses are urging residents not to worry about the British Medical Association’s planned industrial action tomorrow (Thursday).

Although some GPs and hospital consultants will not be booking routine appointments on the day, GPs will still be seeing patients for urgent appointments.

Dr Karen Beeby, GP lead with the St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are working with local providers to minimise disruption to patients as much as possible.”