Lancashire health chiefs unite to issue measles alert and urge vaccination

Posted on - 2nd February, 2024 - 8:59pm | Author - | Posted in - Fylde News, Health, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, South Ribble News, Wyre News
Dr Lindsey Dickinson and Dr Sakthi Karunanithi Pic: Lancashire County Council

Lancashire’s director of public health has called on parents in Preston and the wider county to be vigilant amid a measles outbreak in the Midlands.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi has released a statement alongside the associate medical director for the NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board.

There are no confirmed cases in Lancashire at present but the warning message has been released due to ‘highly infectious viral illness’ that can spread in nurses and schools.

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The outbreak in the West Midlands has seen 260 cases confirmed, around 75 per cent of the total cases in the UK at present. There have been five cases confirmed in the North West.

Dr Sakthi and Dr Lindsey Dickinson said: “If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know there has been a recent, increase in measles cases in England, including (at the time of writing) an ongoing outbreak centred in Birmingham and around the West Midlands region of England.

“Most of the cases have been in children under the age of 10 years with many outbreaks linked to nurseries and schools.

“While there are no reported cases in Lancashire at the time of writing, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is warning that further outbreaks of measles will spread to other towns and cities unless urgent action is taken to increase measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination uptake in areas at greatest risk.

“Measles has practically been eradicated from Lancashire for several years so as Director of Public Health, I am concerned by the prospect of it returning.

“Across England, uptake of the routine childhood vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, is the lowest it has been in a decade and is well below the levels needed to protect the population and prevent outbreaks.

“This is giving this serious disease a chance to get a foothold in our communities.

“We want to make sure that parents have all the information they need about measles and MMR vaccination so they feel equipped with the knowledge of how to protect themselves and their loved ones from this disease.”

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What is measles?

Dr Sakthi said: “It can be a very unpleasant illness and usually starts off with a high temperature and a cold with red eyes, followed by a rash that spreads from your face to the rest of your body. The rash may be harder to spot on black or brown skin.

“In some children measles can be very serious, leading to hospitalisation and in rare cases can cause death.

“People in certain at-risk groups including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles.”

Low vaccination rate

Lancashire County Council and the NHS are urging parents to check their children are up to date with vaccinations, including the MMR jab. At present the update of MMR in Lancashire and North West is much lower than the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation.

The MMR vaccine is free from GP practices and children receive the first dose aged one and a second dose when aged three years and four months.

Parents can check what vaccinations their children have have by looking in the red book provided when children are born.

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