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Sunday, May 5, 2013

10,000 youngsters still unprotected against measles

More than 10 000 children and young people under the age of 18 in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, which includes Llangollen, are still unprotected from measles, according to Public Health Wales.
 
Children aged between 10 and 18 are now being targeted in a schools immunisation campaign, as this has been the commonest hit age group in the current Swansea epidemic area.
 
Over 7000 children in North Wales in this age group are currently unprotected against measles. Since the beginning of November, 1,257 people in the area have come forward catch up vaccinations. Of these, only 605 were aged between 10 and 18.
 
There have now been 1,039 cases of measles in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas – an increase of 28 since Tuesday – and 85 people have been hospitalised. Across the whole of Wales the total is 1,170.  There have been 58 notified cases in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area this year, of these; four have been confirmed by laboratory testing 
 
Andrew Jones, Director of Public Health for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “The simple, safe and effective way to stop measles is to have two MMR jabs.
 
“The number vaccinated in the last month has been very encouraging.
 
“But there is still much to do and those in the 10 to18 year age group are a particular concern. Young people of this age are most likely to have missed the MMR jabs when they were young. They are most vulnerable to measles and we need to see a better response to the catch-up now being offered by the NHS.
 
“Vaccination sessions are continuing in schools across the area and I urge pupils and their parents to take advantage of these.  The dates & consent forms can be found on www.bcu.wales.nhs.uk. Should parents have missed their schools session they are being encouraged to contact their GP to arrange vaccination
 
“We have seen that measles can be potentially fatal and no one should be complacent about its severity. 
 
“Those not vaccinated are more likely to catch measles, which is highly infectious. 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 dies.”
 
North Wales is not within the current epidemic area. At present, the advice to parents of children aged under ten in North Wales is that they should ensure that their children receive their MMR vaccination in accordance with the normal schedule, with the first dose given between 12-13 months old and the second dose at 3 years and four months old, but there is no need to bring these dates forward.   
 
If children have not received the MMR vaccine by these dates they should contact their GP to arrange immunisation.
 
Adults who were born before 1970 are presumed to have immunity and do not need the MMR. Those born between 1970 and 1995 when the MMR was introduced are not currently being called for vaccination but if they plan to travel to the epidemic area in South Wales they are advised to contact their GP surgery for further advice.  Health staff who are in direct patient contact, and especially those who work with children are now being offered the MMR vaccine.
 
The MMR vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization, UK Department of Health and Public Health Wales as the most effective and safe way to protect children against measles 
 
To prevent the spread of the illness, Public Health Wales has issued the following advice:
 
  • If your child is unvaccinated make immediate arrangements with your GP for them to receive the MMR jab. This is even more important if your child has had contact with someone with measles.
  • If your child is unwell and you suspect it is measles you should contact your GP. Your child should not attend school or nursery for four days after the rash starts.
  • Telephone your GP surgery to inform them you or your child has a rash illness before attending, so that arrangements can be made in advance for minimising contact with other vulnerable patients.
  • Avoid going to A&E unless you are seriously ill, and if you do attend, telephone ahead to let them know you or your child may have measles.
  • Avoid contact with pregnant women, people with weak immune systems and babies who are too young to be vaccinated, as they are more vulnerable to infection and there are very few treatments available to help them if they do catch measles.
  • If any family members are pregnant, receiving chemotherapy, or aged under one, it is vital to ensure that all other family members are up to date with their MMR vaccination.     
  • Maternity wards, midwives and health visitors are being asked to share information with parents to encourage them to check the vaccination status of all children in the family to avoid further household spread amongst vulnerable groups.
 
Further information on measles, including a link to a video testimony from a mother whose three year old unvaccinated daughter contracted measles, is available at: http://www.publichealthwales.org/measles
 
The latest data on the measles outbreak – including cases by health board area, vaccination uptake data and numbers of unvaccinated children in Wales – can be found at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/66389

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