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The number of measles cases in Birmingham rising – how to protect your child

There have been 21 cases of measles reported in the West Midlands in January, compared to just three in the same period last year.

In the four weeks to January 28, 21 suspected cases of measles have been reported to Public Health England (PHE) in the metropolitan area.

While not all the cases will turn out to be measles, the number of reports is much higher than in the same period in the previous two years, the four weeks to Week 04 of PHE reports, when three cases were reported in 2016/17 and nine in 2015/16.

The area is one of five where PHE have confirmed measles outbreaks.

The cases reported include eight in Birmingham, six in Solihull and three in Coventry.

Among these was a Harborne mum who praised Heartlands Hospital for quickly treating a rare case of measles that left her daughter so poorly she initially feared she would die.

Debbie Roscoe drove Ellie to A & E after her temperature soared to 39C in what they later discovered was a rare case of the highly infectious illness.

Debbie claims her local GPs’ surgery in Harborne twice misdiagnosed Ellie’s symptoms as chicken pox after she began to fall ill early

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Across England and Wales, the first four weeks of January, 183 suspected cases of measles have been reported to Public Health England (PHE).

This is much higher than in the same period in the previous two years, when 86 cases were reported in 2016/17 and 98 in 2015/16.

The number of reported measles cases across England and Wales is at its highest level for this time of year since 325 cases were reported in the first four weeks of 2013 – when there were major measles outbreak in England and Wales between November 2012 and July 2013, primarily concentrated in Wales but with high numbers of cases in the north of England.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: “This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at 3 years and 4 months of age. Children and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had 2 doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up.

“We’d also encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks.

“The UK recently achieved WHO measles elimination status and so the overall risk of measles to the UK population is low, however due to ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe, we will continue to see cases in unimmunised individuals and limited onward spread can occur in communities with low MMR coverage and in age groups with very close mixing.”

Symptoms of measles include high fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis and cough. A rash then usually develops, starting at the head and spreading to the trunk and limbs over three to four days.

People are infectious from their first symptoms to four days after the rash appears. Symptoms start around 1-2 weeks after exposure to an infectious case.

Those who catch measles are generally very unwell and frequently admitted to hospital. Complications from measles, including pneumonia, are common, and the death rate is approximately one in 5,000 cases in the UK.

The MMR vaccine is available to adults and children who are not up to date with their two doses. Routinely the first dose of MMR is given between 12 and 13 months of age and the second at three years and four months of age, before starting school.

What is measles?

According to NHS Choices , measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. It’s now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination.

Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t had it before, although it’s most common in young children.

The infection usually clears in around 7 to 10 days.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms of measles can include:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots in the mouth (see below)
  • aches and pains
  • a cough
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

A day or two before the rash appears, many people with measles develop small greyish-white spots in their mouth.

Not everyone with measles has these spots, but if someone has them in addition to the other symptoms listed above or a rash, it’s highly likely they have the condition.

The spots will usually last for a few days.

The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and normally fades after about a week.

You’ll usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.

The rash:

  • is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches
  • usually first appears on the head or neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body
  • is slightly itchy for some people
  • can look similar to other childhood conditions, such as slapped cheek syndrome, roseola or rubella
  • is unlikely to be caused by measles if the person has been fully vaccinated (had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine) or had measles before

What should you seek medical advice?

You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles.

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