Parents warned of measles outbreak in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire
- Credit: Archant
There has been an outbreak of measles in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, with the UK among the worst high-income countries for uptake of the vaccination against the disease.
Through schools, Public Health England is issuing letters warning parents that a number of children have been diagnosed with measles in Herts and Beds since March 20.
A parent of a pupil at Giles Nursery and Infants' School in Stevenage said: "I am actually in disbelief that I've just been sent an email from my children's school to say there is an outbreak of measles in Hertfordshire.
"There is no excuse for this disease to have made a comeback when it is so easily preventable. If you are able to, get vaccinated."
Measles is highly infectious. Symptoms include a cough, runny nose, rash, sore red watery eyes and fever. Serious complications can include fits, ear and chest infections and brain infection.
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Two doses of the vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease. However, global coverage of the first dose was reported at 85 per cent in 2017 and for the second dose at 67 per cent.
The World Health Organisation recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunisation coverage to achieve so-called 'herd immunity'.
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In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide - up nearly 300 per cent from the same period last year.
Cath Fenton, consultant lead in screening and immunisation, said: "The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination."
But Unicef data shows the UK is third in the list of high-income countries with the most children not receiving the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at 527,000.
The United States tops the list at more than 2.5 million and is followed by France with 608,000.
A dramatic drop in vaccinations in the UK followed the publication of fraudulent research linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab to autism by disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield in 1998.
"The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago," said Henrietta Fore, Unicef executive director. "The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child."