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HomeHealthParents urged to check children vaccinated against measles as cases rise in...

Parents urged to check children vaccinated against measles as cases rise in Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire health officials are stressing that it’s ‘never too late’ to be vaccinated against measles – amid concerns infections could increase in the county.

Last year in the whole East of England region there were just seven cases of measles. But in the last four weeks in Hertfordshire alone, there have already been four confirmed or probable cases of the ‘highly infectious’ virus.

Health chiefs are now urging anyone who have not yet been fully vaccinated – with two doses of the MMR vaccination – to do so. On Monday (January 29) director of public health Sarah Perman and chief executive of the Herts and West Essex Integrated Care Board Dr Jane Halpin joined forces to raise awareness of the virus at a Hertfordshire-wide press briefing.

As well as highlighting the health impacts of the virus Ms Perman and Dr Halpin urged parents to make sure their children were fully vaccinated. To avoid the spread of infection – they stressed that those suspected of having the virus should not turn up at a GP surgery or hospital without contacting them first.

“We don’t yet have many cases locally in Hertfordshire,” said Ms Perman.

“Our numbers are still, luckily, very low. But we know that measles is highly infectious and we need to take this opportunity to make sure we are protecting our children and other people who may be particularly vulnerable to the impact of measles from the infection.

“Measles isn’t just a rash it can be a serious illness. It does sometimes carry long-term risks –  including, in rare cases, inflammation of te brain and even death.”

Vaccination against measles is part of the MMR vaccination , which is delivered in two doses – the first offered after a child’s first birthday and the second when they turn three.

Across the county, director of public health Sarah Perman suggests that, in essence, nine out of 10 children – or 90 per cent – are fully vaccinated against measles. But there are pockets across the county – in  areas of Watford, Borehamwood, Abbots Langley, Kings Langley and Hatfield – where that can drop to just eight out of 10, or 80 per cent.

Ms Perman said there was still have some work to do to get the Hertfordshire population vaccinated to 95 per cent level recommended for first and second dose.

She warned that it was to be expected that there would be ‘rising cases and outbreaks in Hertfordshire’. In some areas GPs are already trying to identify children with no MMR vaccination or incomplete vaccination.

All parents are now being asked to check their ‘Red Book’ or on the NHS app to check their child’s immunisation history. Where a child is not fully vaccinated, says Ms Perman, they can catch-up by visiting their GP surgery – stressing that the vaccine ‘can be given at any age – it’s  never too late’.

The MMR vaccine is not effective for children under one year old. And it was stressed that boosting the uptake of the vaccine amongst older children will protect those who are too young to have it.

Nationwide there are currently about 200 confirmed cases measles – the vast majority of which are children under 10 years old.

At the briefing there were warnings against taking anyone suspected of having measles to a GP surgery or Emergency Department without contacting them first

“If you are worried about a child who is unwell and you think it might be measles please seek advice before moving them anywhere,” said Dr Halpin.

“Measles is highly contagious so the worst thing from our point of view is a understandably worried parent or carer bringing a child to a doctor’s waiting room, to an ED, and inadvertently exposing very large numbers of people to measles, who might otherwise not have been exposed.”