Measles cases soar

PARENTS have been urged to protect their children against the risk of measles after it was revealed the rate of infection in the region has soared in the last year.

PARENTS have been urged to protect their children against the risk of measles after it was revealed the rate of infection in the region has soared in the last year.

The number of confirmed cases per month in the East of England has more than doubled in the last twelve months, according to a new report.

Health experts blame the rise on low take-up of the MMR vaccine - and urged parents to get children immunised.

Measles is a highly infectious and potentially fatal viral disease that can affect both children and adults and has some serious side-effects.

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According to a report from the Health Protection Agency there have been 134 confirmed cases of measles in the East of England this year - the highest number of any region outside of London.

This is compared to 84 cases in the whole of last year and means the rate per month has more than doubled from seven to 16.

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The dramatic rise has been blamed on the low coverage of the MMR vaccine as parents opt out from getting their children immunised amid concerns over side-effects.

A spokesman for the HPA in the East of England said the figures showed parents needed to ensure their children had both primary and secondary MMR injections, which he described as “demonstrably safe”.

He said concerns over Dr Andrew Wakefield's research - which linked the MMR jab to autism - was nearly ten years ago and “shown to be incorrect”.

The spokesman added: “There is no need for people to avoid their children having the MMR.

“The increase in the cases of measles has happened as the MMR coverage is not high enough to stop measles. It's highly contagious and there needs to be levels of coverage in the community up at 95%. Because that is not happening, very, very rarely it can give you a very nasty illness.

“It's important that parents do understand that all the evidence points to the importance of having two MMRs - there is no point in having just one.”

According to the report 480 cases of measles have been confirmed in the UK so far this year - compared to a provisional total of 756 during the whole of 2006, which is the highest number ever recorded since the current method of monitoring began in 1995.

Torbjorn Sundkvist, consultant in communicable disease control at the Suffolk office of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Health Protection Unit, said there had been only seven confirmed cases of measles in the county this year.

However he still urged parents to immunise their children as the risk of infection was still a threat.

“What the HPA are warning is quite correct because we have had more measles nationally and this could quite easily come to Suffolk,” he said. “Clearly there is an issue that needs to be addressed and the MMR uptake needs to be looked at.

“The message must be to have it done. It's the safest immunisation around and parents must think about this now.”

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