Stark warning over measles outbreak
Health chiefs are urgently warning that a growing measles outbreak could leave children unprotected by the MMR jab brain-damaged or dead.
A total of 43 extra cases in the Swansea area of south Wales in the last week alone has seen the numbers affected rise to 252.
One in six people, 36 in total, of those affected have been hospitalised as a result, Public Health Wales (PHW) said. "We cannot emphasise enough that measles is an illness that can kill," Dr Marion Lyons, PHW director of health protection, warned.
Children who have not been fully immunised against the potential killer disease face a life-long risk of catching measles. "Concerns are growing that it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or even dies," a PHW spokesman added.
"The disease has now spread to children in 64 secondary and primary schools and nurseries across the area, with numbers of new cases doubling weekly."
The majority of the new measles cases are in the Swansea area but they are being reported across south-east Wales. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Public Health Wales continue to work closely together to combat the outbreak.
Dr Lyons added: "The numbers of cases of measles and continuing spread of the disease is of serious concern to us. We cannot emphasise enough that measles is an illness that can kill, or leave people with permanent complications including severe brain damage, and the only protection is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
"The continuing spread of the disease in the Swansea area means that it is only a matter of time before we have a child whose health is seriously damaged by measles. We are urging parents of unvaccinated children to make immediate arrangements with their GP for their children to receive the safe and highly effective MMR vaccine. Ninety per cent of children receiving one dose of MMR are very quickly protected against measles. For those completing the recommended two-dose course of MMR, 99% of children will be protected against measles."
She said the MMR vaccine is not appropriate for a handful of vulnerable groups in the population. They include children under one, pregnant women who have had neither infection nor vaccines, cancer patients and those with weakened immune systems. She warned: "Their health is dependent on those with whom they have close contact being fully protected against measles so that it cannot spread to them.
"The current pattern of cases and spread of illness indicates that this outbreak is likely to continue into the summer months and the risks to unvaccinated individuals will increase as more people become infected. Protection against the risk of measles by getting MMR vaccination is safe, simple and effective."