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Published On: Mon, Apr 29th, 2013

Low immunization rates and the Swansea measles outbreak prompt concerns for a ‘Very large outbreak’ in London

With the Swansea, Wales measles outbreak ready to go over 1,000 cases very soon and the low immunization coverage for the youth in England, concerns have been raised about the potential of  a “Very large outbreak’ in the highly populated city of London.

The low measles vaccination rates in the parts of the city are low, with some areas being less than 50 percent of some children not being fully vaccinated.

Measles   Image/CDC

Measles Image/CDC

This has caused concern with some experts. The Independent reports that Professor David Salisbury, the Department of Health’s director of immunization said, “If Swansea has had close to 1,000 cases, anywhere like London could have the same experience multiplied by the difference in size between London and Swansea. The scale of what could happen in London could be a very large outbreak.”

The population of London is 40-times that of Swansea.

Public Health England (PHE) announced late last week a national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year-olds as possible in time for the next school year in an effort to prevent such a situation from occurring.

England, which recorded record numbers of measles cases in 2012, has recorded nearly 600 cases during the first quarter of 2013.

Many say the problem with measles in the UK exists today thanks to the now discredited Dr. Andrew Wakefield study, which linked the Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, causing a massive decrease in MMR uptake over the years since the study was published.

Measles became reestablished in the UK in 2007 after being virtually eliminated.

Estimates from PHE say that there are approximately one third of a million 10-16 year-olds (around 8%) who are unvaccinated and another third of a million who need at least 1 further dose of MMR to give them full protection. It is also estimated that there are around another one third of a million children below and above this age band who need at least 1 further dose of MMR.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: “Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so we are very disappointed that measles cases have recently increased in England. The catch-up programme set out today recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk. Those who have not been vaccinated should urgently seek at least 1 dose of MMR vaccination which will give them 95% protection against measles. A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection.

“The only way to prevent measles outbreaks, such as the one we are seeing in South Wales, is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups. Measles is not a mild illness – it is very unpleasant and can lead to serious complications as we have seen with more than 100 children in England being hospitalised so far this year.”

The latest official numbers from Public Health Wales show as of April 24, there have been 942 cases reported in Mid and West Wales, and over 1,000 cases recorded throughout Wales.

Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said the outbreak is not easing up, especially in the 10 to 18 year old age group, as dozens more cases were reported the week before.

Measles is an acute highly infectious viral illness caught through direct contact with an infected person or through the air via droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cold-like symptoms, fatigue, conjunctivitis and a distinctive red-brown rash. More severe complications can be seen in 20% of reported cases.

About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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