Measles epidemic could hit Suffolk

HEALTH experts today warned that a measles epidemic could cause devastation in Suffolk, affecting thousands of youngsters.

HEALTH experts today warned that a measles epidemic could cause devastation in Suffolk, affecting thousands of youngsters.

Figures that show that in 2008, just 89 per cent of children in the county were given the first dose of the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, and only 79.4pc the second dose.

The news has prompted the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to issue a dramatic warning about the consequences of not vaccinating youngsters.

It is worried that although there were just 84 confirmed cases of the disease in the East of England last year the risk of an epidemic, which could affect 10,000 people in Suffolk, is rising.

Dr Joe Kearney, regional director of the HPA said: “We've been fortunate to see fewer cases in 2008, but the evidence shows there is a real risk of a large-scale measles epidemic because of the low coverage of MMR.

“We need that coverage to be up to 90 to 95pc to stop the virus spreading.

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“Relatively low uptake over the past decade means there are now a large number of children not fully protected. As a result, measles is spreading easily among unvaccinated children.

“These children are susceptible to not only measles but to mumps and rubella as well which are also prevented by the MMR.

“While it's good news that eight out of ten children are receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday, it's important to remember that children need to be vaccinated with both doses to get the best protection.

“Unvaccinated children are at real risk. Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, even in healthy children.

“It is highly infectious and can be passed on without direct contact before the rash appears. This is why it's incredibly important to warn parents and let them know it is never too late to get their children protected with the MMR.”

Dr Brian Keeble, NHS Suffolk immunisation co-ordinator, added: “We now have a reservoir of children in schools who don't have MMR so an outbreak could be awful, it could spread like wildfire.”

For more information on the MMR vaccine, go to www.immunisation.nhs.uk.

Are you worried about a measles outbreak? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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