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Call for MMR check for a measles-free Christmas in the West Midlands

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Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands is renewing the call for people to check they are up-to-date with two doses of MMR vaccine. It comes as cases of measles confirmed in Birmingham rises to 16, and people begin to gather for Christmas celebrations across the city, providing the ideal opportunity for measles to spread wider across the city and the region.

PHE has previously reported managing an outbreak of measles in Birmingham alongside Birmingham City Council and NHS partners, with cases confirmed since the beginning of November. Almost all cases have been in children.

Symptoms to be aware of include:

  • high fever
  • sore, red, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • aching and feeling generally unwell
  • a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and can sometimes lead to serious complications, especially in people who are particularly vulnerable or have other health conditions. It is possible for anyone at any age to get measles and the illness can be more severe in teenagers and adults than in young children.

Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands Health Protection consultant, said: “Measles is extremely infectious. Christmas is fast approaching and gatherings will be held where the disease can spread easily. It is really important that anyone who hasn’t had two doses of the MMR vaccine contacts their GP surgery to get up-to-date. If you’re unsure whether you or your children have had the vaccine, check your child’s Red Book or contact your GP surgery to find out. You do not need to seek additional vaccines if you and your children have had two MMR vaccines in the past.

“With ongoing outbreaks in other parts of Europe including Romania, Italy and Germany, we’re also warning that anyone travelling to these countries for the festive period is at particularly high risk. If you’re planning to go to these countries, contact your GP to arrange an appointment for vaccination before you travel, if you’ve not received two doses of MMR in the past.”

Because measles is so infectious, anyone with symptoms is also being advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice in the first instance to prevent the illness spreading further.

Dr Sibal added: “Members of the public should be vigilant for the symptoms of measles, including high fever; sore, red, watery eyes, coughing, aching and feeling generally unwell and a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms. If you’re concerned that you or your child may have measles, please do not go to A&E or your GP surgery straight away. Instead telephone your GP or ring         NHS 111 for advice. This will prevent measles being spread to other people who may be vulnerable. If you think you have symptoms and your surgery is closed for the festive period, telephone NHS 111 for advice – do not go straight to A&E.

“If you think you could have measles, it’s also really important to stay away from areas where you could come into contact with lots of other people – so stay away from any Christmas gatherings if you have symptoms, and especially from vulnerable patients in hospitals, care homes or similar settings. We understand Christmas is a time to visit loved ones, but measles can be serious for these groups and spreads easily in these places.”

 The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella. It is particularly important for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children when offered at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at 3 years 4 months of age. If children and young adults have missed these vaccinations in the past, it’s important to take up the vaccine now from GPs, particularly in light of the recent cases in Birmingham.

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