The FINANCIAL -- Warning that measles can still kill, as dozens of cases reported in West Midlands. Doctors urged to be alert for symptoms, which can be confused with symptoms for other conditions. Young adults holidaying in Europe or attending music festivals at particular risk.
A new warning has been issued about the danger from measles, which has been on the rise in the West Midlands despite an announcement last year that the disease had effectively been eliminated in the UK.
There have been more than twice as many measles cases recorded in England and Wales in the first part of this year than in the whole of 2017, largely due to infections transported from Europe, according to Aston University.
A new report on the threat, published in the British Journal of General Practice, Online First, urges doctors to be particularly vigilant for symptoms, which can easily be confused with the symptoms for other diseases associated with a rash.
Report co-author Nick Harding, Honorary Senior Lecturer at Aston Medical School and Chair of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said:
“By the middle of last month, there had already been 82 cases of measles reported in the West Midlands alone this year.
“Bearing in mind that the disease has killed 48 people in the EU since 2016, it’s crucial that we don’t let measles get a foothold here again, and doctors need to be super-vigilant.”
European measles outbreaks have arisen in countries where MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine uptake has been low, including Romania, France, Greece and Italy.
In the UK, coverage for the first dose of MMR vaccine in five-year-olds has reached the World Health Organisation target of 95 per cent, and recent outbreaks are affecting mainly young adults who were not vaccinated when they were younger.
The report’s lead author, Dr Maliha Moten, emphasised how important it was for doctors to be aware that measles is still a threat, saying:
“The diagnosis of measles can be easily missed because of its similar presentation to other common febrile illnesses associated with a rash.
“It is therefore vital GPs have a high level of clinical suspicion, particularly in children who may be under-vaccinated, live in high-risk communities, or have recently travelled to areas where measles is still endemic, and work in partnership with Public Health England to support the control of measles in the UK.”
The rise in recorded cases of the disease has prompted PHE to declare a national measles incident.
Young people in particular are being urged to ensure they receive both doses of the MMR vaccine before holidaying abroad. They have also been warned that environments such as music festivals provide ideal conditions for the disease to spread.
The symptoms include:
Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
A high temperature which may reach around 40C
Small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks
A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading to the rest of the body.