Fears measles will spread throughout Birmingham as hundreds of cases recorded
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Latest figures on the outbreak, published on Thursday (February 8), showed the total number of measles cases in the country since October last year had soared to 465.
The UK Health Security Agency said 71 per cent of the cases - 329 of the 465 - were reported in the West Midlands region, which Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist, described as a “concern.”
She said: “MMR vaccine uptake has been falling over the last decade with one in ten children starting school in England not protected. Measles is highly infectious and there is a real risk it will spread to other areas.”
Coun Rob Pocock, Birmingham City Council’s interim cabinet member for health and social care, issued a similar warning earlier this week and said the city may have to live with measles “for some years to come”. He told a meeting: “This is a highly infectious virus. It will spread through any community where there is less than 95 per cent immunisation.”
Coun Pocock said vaccination rates in Birmingham were slightly below 75 per cent. “Measles is going to spread through this city – this is happening and it’s going to continue to happen until we can get the immunisation rates back to the level of 95 per cent.”
Coun Pocock said the council needed to make the public aware of the virus and its effects, and boost the levels of immunisation “in every community in every part of this city”. He adde: “The steps the council has taken is to spread awareness of this virus. The signs and symptoms are being communicated across the city.
“The message is if members of your family show signs or symptoms do not take the person to a GP or A&E unit without first contacting both of those groups because the virus will spread.
“To boost the uptake there will be more work done,” he continued. “Letters are to be sent to every person and their family in the age group six to 16 who are not recorded as having been vaccinated. GP surgeries are about to contact the families of all children up to the age of six which are not known to be vaccinated.”
He added that those aged 16 to 25 with access to the NHS app would get a message urging them to be vaccinated. “That’s the first call out – lets get our city vaccinated,” Coun Pocock said.
Asked what councillors could do to help to promote vaccination, he responded: “We need to get out and about in our communities, building trust and conveying that information. Measles is not going to go away overnight, we’re going to have to live with this for some weeks, some months, possibly some years to come.”
The NHS says the first symptoms of measles include a high temperature, a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, a cough and red, sore or watery eyes. It adds that small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later. A rash also usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms.