Measles just refuses to go away.
In fact, it’s getting worse.
Life-threatening measles cases in Europe tripled in 2017 — and it’s spreading to the UK.
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There were 14,451 cases of measles across 30 European countries last year, up from 4,600 in 2016, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Since the start of 2016, 50 of these cases have resulted in deaths — with complications most commonly occurring in children under the age of five.
Outbreaks were particularly high in Greece (1,463), Romania (10,623), Italy (4,991), and Germany (926) — and in the UK there have been over 120 confirmed cases.
The disease is easily preventable thanks to the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine — but in areas of low immunisation it can spread fast.
In the UK the number of vaccinated children are dropping every year. While in 2013-4, vaccination rates had reached 94.3% — in 2015-6, it was down to 91.9%.
Numerous reports have pointed to the legacy of disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register for publishing a fraudulent paper purporting to link vaccinations to autism. Subsequent studies have found no link between them.
Nevertheless, despite the link having been completed disproved (really never even proved in the first place), a small number of parents continue to believe that they’re protecting their child by not getting them vaccinated — when really, the opposite is true.
Measles are Red— Eliza Tweetiatrician Varadi (@eliza_varadi) February 14, 2018
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It comes just months after measles was officially “eliminated” from the UK. But “eliminated” means something slightly different to “eradicated” — and as a result the disease hasn’t really been beaten, yet.
When measles was “eliminated” in September 2017, it meant that there hadn’t been a local case within the UK for three years — not counting cases brought in from the outbreak in Europe. Eradication refers to total, permanent removal, like smallpox (and nearly polio!).
Measles is sort of like a cold, but worse.
According to the NHS, symptoms involve coughing, sneezing, aches, pains, tiredness, a high temperature, and spots in your mouth. It often clears up within a week, but can lead to serious complications like infections of the lungs (pneumonia), and brain (encephalitis).
If you think you or your child might have measles, contact your GP — and if you haven’t vaccinated your kids yet, get a move on! But not because we told you to; heed the words of Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England.
“Due to ongoing measles outbreaks within Europe, we will continue to see imported measles cases in the UK in unimmunised individuals,” said Dr. Ramsay. “This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children when offered at one year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years, four months of age.”
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