SCHOOLS in three central London boroughs are on high alert after a “significant increase” in the number of measles cases.
Health bosses have warned the highly infectious bug could spread quickly in unvaccinated children – amid fears of an epidemic, after record cases of the disease across Europe.
Do you live in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, or Hammersmith & Fulham? If so, be on the alert
Public Health England (PHE) sent a letter last week to headteachers from Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith & Fulham, warning them of the outbreak in west London.
The letter warns that the affected schools are Fulham Boys School, Chelsea Academy and St Marylebone Church of England School.
PHE consultant, Dr Janet Lo, wrote to heads across the affected boroughs rather than individual schools, urging them to “stay vigilant for any new cases reported to your schools”.
“We strongly encourage you to ensure your staff and parents are aware of the importance of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and encourage them and the children to be vaccinated,” the letter continued.
Dr Lo also warned that because children at the worst schools may have siblings at other schools and nurseries, the virus could be spreading.Airborne bug
Measles is a highly contagious viral illness, that can prove life-threatening.
It’s airborne, spread through the tiny droplets exhaled from the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
You can catch the bug by breathing in these droplets, but also by touching a surface infected droplets have settled on.
People with measles are infectious from when their symptoms develop until about four days after the rash first appears.
Because of the spread of the disease across Europe, it’s likely that people are unwittingly bringing the virus into the UK.
With school children playing together or being in classrooms all day, it’s incredibly easy for airborne bugs to spread.
Last week, PHE confirmed that measles cases were on the rise, following an increase in kids diagnosed with the infectious disease in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
In the first quarter of 2019, there were 231 confirmed cases of measles.
As measles is highly infectious, anyone who has not received 2 doses of MMR vaccine is at risk, particularly unvaccinated people travelling to countries where there are currently large outbreaks of measles.
Anti-vaxxers to blame
The terrifying warning comes amid growing fears over the rise of previously extinct infectious diseases which are once again on the rise.
It’s believed that anti-vaxxers and suspicion over the safety of jabs online are partly to blame for parents not having their kids immunised.
PHE warned that only 87.4 per cent of kids aged 5 had received the second dose of the MMR vaccine.
After two doses of the jab, you’re 99 per cent protected against developing the disease.
To achieve herd immunity for measles, at least 90 to 95% of the population need to be fully protected.
Last week health secretary Matt Hancock warned that compulsory MMR vaccines should be brought into combat anti-vaxxer views among parents.
Calls to ban unvaccinated kids from school
He suggested that schools ban unvaccinated kids – forcing parents to get the jabs for their kids by the age of 5.
But nurses condemned the move, warning that forcing parents to vaccinate would only make them more suspicious of the jabs.
The Health Secretary made the suggestions after Unicef revealed more than half a million UK children missed the first dose of the MMR jab between 2010 and 2017.
UK has fifth highest rate of cases
According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control there have been 860 confirmed cases of measles in the United Kingdom between April last year and March this year – which makes the UK the fifth highest in Europe behind Italy, France, Romania and Greece.
The UN warned back in April that the number of measles cases shot up a terrifying 300 per cent worldwide in the first three months of 2019.
Only around one in ten cases of measles are actually reported so it could mean that the true numbers of people suffering the disease is far higher.
Cases are up 50% in the last year
So far, 170 countries have reported 112,163 measles cases to the WHO.
This time last year, 163 countries had reported 28,124 cases.
The main issue is that the anti-vax movement is gaining more support, out of fear that the jab causes autism.
The World Health Organisation has said that measles cases have jumped up by 50 per cent in the last year.
It’s a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to very serious complications.
It can cause things like pneumonia and encephalitis – both of which can kill or leave people seriously disabled for the rest of their lives.
Public Health England Letters have been sent out to heads in three affected London boroughs warning them of the measles epidemic
Symptoms of measles
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications.
It can be prevented by having the MMR vaccine – which is not linked to autism or any other condition.
Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or haven’t had it before, although it’s most common in young children.
Symptoms can feel a bit like flu or a really bad hangover, but it’s absolutely crucial that you recognise them early on and get treated.
Measles can lead to fatal conditions like pneumonia and encephalitis.
Signs to watch out for include:
cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough
sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks
a red-brown blotchy rash that starts on the head or upper neck and spreads downwards
The rash isn’t always present so don’t wait until it develops.
You can find out more about the MMR vaccine here.
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Now, experts are calling for measles vaccinations to be made mandatory in certain countries.
It’s given in two doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.
The first jab is given to kids at around 13 months old, while a second dose is administered at around three years, four months.
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