Mapped: Measles cases in your area as infection rates surge
Measles cases are on the rise and parents are being urged to urgently check whether their children have been vaccinated against the virus.
It comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published new data showing a rise in measles cases in England, with 49 cases between 1 January and 20 April, compared to 54 cases for the whole of 2022.
Some 40 per cent of cases were in children aged under five and 27 per cent were in people aged 15 to 34.
Most of the cases (67 per cent) have been in London, though they have cropped up in other regions and some cases are linked to travel abroad.
There are currently 49 laboratory confirmed cases of measles in England, 33 of which are in the capital. The South West has the second highest number of cases, with six, followed by the North East, with three cases.
There are two cases recorded in the East of England and East Midlands and one in the North West. No cases have been recorded in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
Vaccination rates for measles have fallen in recent years, with uptake of the first MMR dose in two-year-olds in England at 89 per cent. Uptake of two doses for by the age of five is just 85 per cent.
This is well below the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) needed to eliminate the disease.
The UKHSA warned that measles is highly infectious and can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia and meningitis, and sometimes long-term disability or death.
It said measles is particularly easy to catch in environments where people are in close contact, such as through increased mixing at summer festivals, while some holiday destinations also have higher rates of the infection.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: “We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their two MMR doses.
“It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS whatever your age.
“Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community.
“Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is very concerning to see cases starting to pick up this year.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a fall in uptake for the routine childhood vaccinations, including MMR, which leaves us vulnerable to outbreaks, especially as people travel abroad for summer holidays to places where measles is more common.”