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July 18, 2024

Measles Cases Surge Across England as Vaccination Rates Plummet

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Jan 21, 2024

A worrying resurgence of measles is sweeping across England, with cases skyrocketing over 300% in just the last 3 months. Health officials have declared a national incident in response to the rapidly growing outbreak.

Measles Cases Reach Over 340 in December

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed that 336 confirmed measles cases were recorded in England between September and December 2023. This represents a significant 316% increase compared to the 81 cases reported in the same period in 2022.

The outbreak has hit the West Midlands hardest, prompting the UKHSA to declare it a “national incident” requiring urgent action. Over 100 cases have been reported in Birmingham alone since September.

Other hotspots include London, Manchester and Liverpool. Cases are expected to continue rising rapidly into 2024 if immediate steps are not taken.

Vaccination Rates Have Plummeted, Leaving Population Vulnerable

Health officials attribute the sudden measles resurgence directly to declining vaccination rates.

In some areas of Birmingham, less than two-thirds of young children have received the critical MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine by their 5th birthday.

MMR Vaccination Rates in Children Reaching Age 5

Area % Vaccinated
England 91%
West Midlands 86%
Birmingham 64%

This leaves thousands of infants and children unprotected against the extremely contagious virus, allowing it to spread rapidly between unvaccinated individuals.

“When vaccination rates fall, we see these diseases coming back. Measles is easy to catch and can kill” said Dr. David Elliman, a consultant in community child health.

Measles Can Lead to Serious Complications

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. A single infected person can pass it on to 15 others through coughing and sneezing.

While often viewed as a harmless childhood illness, measles can cause severe complications including pneumonia, brain inflammation and even death.

Tragically, a 29-year old Birmingham mother, Claire Richards, lost her 6 year old son Sean to measles in early January. He suffered fatal swelling of the brain just days after first developing a fever and rash.

“My son would still be here today if he had been vaccinated,” said a distraught Mrs Richards. “I was scared the MMR jab might cause autism. But no vaccine is dangerous than catching measles itself.”

Sean’s story is far from unique. Serious complications hospitalize 1 in 15 measles cases, and as many as 1 in 5000 die from the disease.

Urgent Call to Action to Curb Outbreak

With measles cases rapidly accumulating, health officials have issued an urgent call to action to curb the outbreak.

The UKHSA is imploring parents to ensure their children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine at 12 months and again at 4 years old.

Catch-up doses are also advised for unvaccinated teens and adults born in or after 1970, who may have missed shots in childhood.

GP clinics and pharmacies have been alerted to boost vaccine orders to meet increased demand in coming weeks.

Pop-up immunization clinics may also be deployed in hotspot areas to make accessing shots quick and convenient.

“This is precisely the situation vaccines are designed to prevent” said UKHSA CEO Dr Jenny Harries. “It is vital parents take up vaccines for their children now to stop this disease in its tracks before we see more tragic cases”.

Outbreak Expected to Worsen Before it Improves

With over 340 cases reported in the last 4 months alone, health experts unfortunately expect the UK’s measles outbreak to deteriorate further in the near term.

Winter and spring are peak seasons for measles spread, as people huddle indoors in close proximity.

Manchester University virologist Emma Clarke told BBC News “This outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down. We can undoubtedly expect case numbers to continue climbing over the next 3-6 months”.

But Dr Clarke says the solution is in our hands. “By rallying communities to get vaccinated now, we could turn this outbreak around by mid-2024 and prevent thousands more infections”.

So as measles continues its dangerous resurgence across England, increased vigilance around symptoms and swift medical attention for suspected cases will be vital in limiting severe outcomes.

But above all, health officials are unanimous in their message – vaccination is the only way to get this outbreak under control and avert further heartbreaking tragedies.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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