UK declares 'national incident' over measles outbreak

Saturday, January 20, 2024
 – The U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has declared a national incident over a surge in measles cases across the country.

In a statement, its chief executive Jenny Harries said that “immediate action” is needed to boost the uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in areas where the numbers of people getting the vaccine is low.

“We need a long-term concerted effort to protect individuals and to prevent large measles outbreaks,” she said.

Measles is a highly contagious disease. In mild cases, symptoms include a rash, high fever and ear infections. But it can also be "a very unpleasant illness," the UKHSA said, leading to hospitalization and death in rare cases. Babies, young children, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system are most at risk.

As of 18 January, there have been 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands since 1 October 2023. Around 80% of cases have been seen in Birmingham, with about 10% in Coventry, the majority being in children aged under 10 years.

With vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a “very real risk” of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities, Harries said.

Latest figures from the UKHSA show that the uptake of the MMR vaccine is at its lowest level in more than a decade, with 84.5 percent of children having had two doses by the time they were five years old in 2022-23.

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