Senior doctors warn a looming measles outbreak could lead to ‘a lot of deaths’ amid falling vaccination rates
- New NHS guidelines have been set out to watch out for measles in children
There is a threat of a major measles outbreak in Britain this winter, which would lead to ‘many deaths’, senior doctors have warned.
Falling vaccination rates have led to the resurgence of the once rare disease, which officials fear could be ‘disastrous’ for the NHS.
Experts are so concerned that they have issued new guidance for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to ‘think about measles’.
In an unprecedented move, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is asking health workers to check the vaccination records of all children arriving at hospital.
Anyone showing symptoms of the disease, such as fever and cough, should be isolated immediately, while staff should wear personal protective equipment.
Experts are so concerned that they have issued new guidance for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to ‘think about measles’
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should also be promoted to anyone who has not had both doses, the council says.
The guidelines come amid measles outbreaks in the UK and Europe, with cases reported in cities including Sheffield, Leicester, Cardiff and London.
It is perhaps the most contagious disease in existence and the World Health Organization recently warned of a ‘perfect storm’ for a large-scale outbreak.
The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, breathes or sneezes and can remain in the air for up to two hours. The vaccination rate must be no less than 95 percent to halt the disease.
But falling vaccination rates and the Covid hangover mean that only 85 per cent of five-year-olds in England have had the recommended two doses, according to the latest data.
The historic vaccine hesitancy towards the MMR also means that cases are being reported among teenagers and adults.
Poor vaccination rates in London mean there could be between 40,000 and 160,000 cases in the capital, the UK Health Security Agency has warned.
Professor Helen Bedford, from University College London, said: ‘If we get more cases we will see a lot of very sick children and a lot of hospital admissions.
The historic vaccine hesitancy towards the MMR also means that cases are being reported among teenagers and adults
‘People are still dying from measles in Britain, but when the figures become reality we will see many deaths. It is not just a mild childhood illness.
‘The challenge with measles is that you can’t just get high uptake and then drop it; the vaccination should stay there. It is considered the most contagious disease there is.”
Dr. Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College, said the health service is already dealing with winter spikes in respiratory infections, flu, Covid and Group A Strep.
“It would be disastrous to add another highly contagious and dangerous disease to the mix and bring our already fragile system to its knees,” she warned.
According to the latest official data, there are 149 confirmed cases in England, more than half of which are in London. But the actual number is probably higher.
Experts are urging everyone, including adults, who have not yet had two MMR doses to get vaccinated.