Young people urged to get vaccinated to protect their health before their exams

Public Health Wales is urging young people living in the outbreak area to get the MMR vaccination before their exams begin as cases reach 942.

An extra 56 cases have been reported to Public Health Wales since Tuesday illustrating the outbreak is showing no signs of ending, particularly in the 10 to 18 age group.

Although the outbreak is centred mainly on Swansea, rates of measles are high throughout the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University, Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas, especially in Neath Port Talbot and North Powys.

A total of 83 people have been hospitalised since the beginning of the outbreak.

Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said: “The increase of cases shows that the outbreak is not easing up, especially in the 10 to 18 year old age group.

“Young people have important examinations coming up and we need to make sure that those aged between 10 and 18 are vaccinated so their preparation for these examinations are not affected.

“Vaccination sessions are continuing in schools throughout Wales and I urge pupils and their parents to take advantage of these.

“We have seen that measles can be potentially fatal and no one should be complacent about the severity of measles.  It can kill but can be prevented by a simple, safe vaccine.”

A third week of MMR clinics at schools in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will begin on Monday 29 April and drop-in vaccination sessions will again be held across the outbreak area this Saturday.

Parents are reminded that the only protection for their child is two doses of the MMR vaccine and they should not assume that others around them have been vaccinated.

Those not vaccinated are highly likely to catch measles, which is highly contagious, and it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or dies.

It is inevitable that some children vaccinated in the last two weeks will already be incubating measles and vaccination will not prevent them from becoming unwell, but their illness is likely to be milder than if they had not received the vaccine.

Dr Marion Lyons added: “Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). MMR vaccination offers the only protection against these complications.

“The MMR vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization, UK Department of Health and Public Health Wales as the most effective and safe way to protect children against measles. The alarming numbers of cases of measles and continuing spread of the disease in Wales illustrates how vital it is for parents to get their children vaccinated.

“Unvaccinated children aged between six and 12 months living in or travelling to the outbreak areas of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot can be offered vaccination by their GP. There’s no adverse effect to this extra jab and those children would still need to receive the recommended two doses at 12 months and three years and four months of age.”

To prevent the spread of the illness, Public Health Wales has issued the following advice:

  • If your child is unvaccinated make immediate arrangements with your GP for them to receive the MMR jab. This is even more important if your child has had contact with someone with measles.
  • If your child is unwell and you suspect it is measles you should contact your GP. Your child should not attend school or nursery for four days after the rash starts.
  • Telephone your GP surgery to inform them you or your child has a rash illness before attending, so that arrangements can be made in advance for minimising contact with other vulnerable patients.
  • Avoid going to A&E unless you are seriously ill, and if you do attend, telephone ahead to let them know you or your child may have measles.
  • Avoid contact with pregnant women, people with weak immune systems and babies who are too young to be vaccinated, as they are more vulnerable to infection and there are very few treatments available to help them if they do catch measles.
  • If any family members are pregnant, receiving chemotherapy, or aged under one, it is vital to ensure that all other family members are up to date with their MMR vaccination.
  • Maternity wards, midwives and health visitors are being asked to share information with parents to encourage them to check the vaccination status of all children in the family to avoid further household spread amongst vulnerable groups.

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

The latest data on the measles outbreak – including cases by health board area, vaccination uptake data and numbers of unvaccinated children in Wales – can be found at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/66389

CONTACT:   Public Health Wales Communications Team on 029 2034 8755 (24 hours)

More information on Public Health Wales is available at www.publichealthwales.org