The UK Health Security Agency has warned that measles cases could rapidly increase unless more vaccinations are administered. Over four million parents, caregivers, and young adults are being notified that they or their children have missed one or both doses of the vaccine.
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through coughs and sneezes, with symptoms including high fever, sore and watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and a blotchy red or brown rash. The disease usually clears up after seven to ten days, but can lead to complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, blindness, and seizures.
People of all ages can contract measles, but it can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, leading to stillbirth, miscarriage, or low birth weight babies. Therefore, the NHS is encouraging young adults to ensure they are fully vaccinated before starting a family.
The MMR vaccine is highly effective in preventing measles, with two doses providing protection for 99% of people against measles and rubella, and 88% against mumps. The first dose is typically given at 12 months and the second at around three years and four months. However, catch-up jabs can be arranged at any age.
Despite false claims linking the MMR vaccine to autism, there is no scientific evidence supporting this connection. The rise in measles cases is largely due to vaccination rates falling below World Health Organization targets.
Outbreaks have been most prevalent in the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, with over 200 cases in recent months. Smaller outbreaks have occurred in parts of London and other areas of the country.
The NHS advises those who contract measles to take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and maintain good hygiene. Urgent medical advice should be sought for pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems after contact with someone with measles.