Five signs of measles to spot after doctors urged to watch out for infection

Measles: We have forgotten how dangerous it is says expert

With measles cases on the rise in the UK, parents have been told to understand the symptoms to look out for in their children and themselves, to spot the infection early and prevent any further spreading.

Measles spreads very easily, says the NHS, and can cause serious problems in some people.

It was considered to be eliminated in the UK in 2016 and 2017, meaning transmission had stopped, but by 2018 it was spreading once more.

Between January 1 and June 30 this year there were 129 laboratory confirmed measles cases in England compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022. The majority of cases were diagnosed in London.

With this in mind, health experts at NowPatient shared the common signs and symptoms of measles to look out for:

  • High fever
  • Runny nose and cough
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Small white spots inside the cheeks
  • A whole-body rash – usually begins on the face and neck before spreading further

READ MORE Measles hotspots in England mapped – check your local area

Now, doctors have been urged to “think measles” when treating children after a “devastating resurgence of virtually eliminated life-threatening diseases”.

Leading children’s doctors said that many medics will have never come across the disease before and have launched an awareness campaign to help clinicians spot symptoms and remind them what to do if they diagnose a case.

For the first time in decades, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has issued national guidance on the treatment of measles.

The RCPCH has urged medics to use “every opportunity” to check a child’s vaccination status and offer the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jab to those who have not had two doses.

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Vaccination against the potentially fatal disease is at a 10-year low and the RCPCH said that outbreaks have already been seen in London, Wales and Leicester.

The college said that the UK “is now seeing a devastating resurgence of virtually eliminated life-threatening diseases, such as measles” as it called for the Government to publish its “overdue” national vaccination strategy.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH president, said: “Having to consider measles in our national guidance for the first time in decades is a disappointing but necessary move.

“Vaccination coverage for children under the age of five is now the lowest it has ever been in the past 10 years.

“We are already starting to see the effects of this with measles outbreaks occurring in London, Wales and Leicester.

“We now find ourselves once again asking the Government, where is the long-awaited vaccination strategy? The UK Government must acknowledge these low uptake figures and focus its attention on ensuring equal access to vaccinations across all regions and socioeconomic groups.”

Earlier this year, the UK Health Security Agency warned that if MMR vaccination rates do not improve, London could see a measles outbreak with tens of thousands of cases.

Outside London, the risk of large measles outbreaks is low, the health body said.

Figures from NHS digital show that in 2022/23 some 92.5 percent of five-year-old children had received the first dose of the MMR jab – the lowest level since 2010/11.

And only 84.5 percent of five-year-olds had received two doses, the lowest proportion since 2010/11.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of immunisation at UKHSA, said: “Measles can be a serious infection that can lead to complications, especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems, and tragically for some it can be fatal.

“Measles spreads very easily and the virus will find and attack those who aren’t protected, but is easily prevented with two jabs, free on the NHS whatever your age.

“Due to longstanding sub-optimal vaccine uptake, there is now a very real risk of seeing more outbreaks across the country with London most at risk. Any interventions that will help catch up those children who have missed out on either one or both jabs are welcome.

“Nobody wants to see their child or loved ones sick with measles, or put others who are more vulnerable, like babies, at risk. I urge those who have missed their MMR vaccines to catch-up now.”

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