Measles cases are rising across England, with numbers expected to rise now that millions of children have returned to school this week.
The NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria is urging parents and guardians to check that their children are up to date with their MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations to reduce the risk of catching the highly infectious disease.
Every region in England has reported confirmed cases of the infectious disease and cases to date are over double that of the whole of last year.
Childhood vaccination rates have fallen over the past 10 years. Whilst measles can be mild for some children, one in five will require a hospital visit and the infection can lead to complications in one in 15, such as meningitis and sepsis. There is no specific treatment for measles, so parents are being reminded that vaccination gives the best protection from serious illness.
The MMR vaccine is given at one year old and again at around three years and four months in readiness for starting school. Two doses are enough to give lifelong protection from becoming seriously unwell with mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR vaccine is often given at the same time as the pre-school booster including protection against polio. Anyone who has missed any of the vaccinations can catch up at any time.
Dr Lindsey Dickinson, associate medical director at NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), which organises healthcare services in the region, said: “The MMR vaccine is the best possible way to keep children safe and healthy, and protected against Measles, which is on the rise.
“Often, early symptoms are similar to a cold, like sneezing, coughing and a runny nose, with a rash not showing until they have been infectious for up to four days. In the meantime, before any rash shows, they could have infected a large majority of their unvaccinated classmates. The impact of that could be incredibly serious.
“A record of your child’s immunisations and vaccinations should be in their red book, but if you are unsure if they are protected, I would urge you to check with your child’s GP practice.”
If any doses have been missed, a vaccination appointment can be made at your GP practice to catch up and become protected.
For more information about the MMR vaccine, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine/