Posted by at 10/07/2013 15:04:18
NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated against MMR before the school holidays.
Many families take holidays, have days out, and spend time with other people over the summer and the CCG is asking parents to check whether their children are fully vaccinated before schools break up.
Nationally there have been a high number of cases of measles reported this year.
Measles is a very infectious disease and in England in the first five months of 2013, there were 1,123 cases reported, and one in five of those suffering was admitted to hospital. This follows a record annual high of almost 2,000 cases in 2012.
Destinations popular with British holidaymakers such as France, Italy, Spain and Ireland are among the top seven countries currently reporting high numbers of measles cases.
In Kent, there was just one confirmed case of measles in the first four months of this year. In 2012 there were eight.
Dr Bob Bowes, a GP at Kingswood Surgery in Tunbridge Wells, and Chair at NHS West Kent CCG , said; “Measles can lead to very serious complications and although the number of reported cases in Kent seems very low, nationally we have seen high numbers.
“When you couple this with the high number of measles cases in other areas of the UK and in countries which families may visit this summer, the risk of measles spreading is likely to increase.”
So far this year, more than 224 children in England who have contracted measles have been admitted to hospital.
Dr Bowes said: “It is really important that parents make sure their children have had the full MMR vaccination as measles is a highly infectious illness and spreads really easily.”
The CCG is urging parents who think their child may not be fully vaccinated to contact their GP surgery to check records, and book an appointment for the vaccination if necessary.
Routinely, children are offered the MMR vaccine in two doses; typically the first is given at around 12 months old and the second at three years of age.
GPs have been contacting parents of children in West Kent who are not fully vaccinated to encourage them to have the vaccinations.
Meradin Peachey, Kent County Council Director of Public Health, said: "The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of giving children immunity against measles. The impact of measles can be severe, with some children needing hospital treatment, so the importance of vaccination should not be underplayed. I would urge every parent to take up vaccines for their children - and to check with your GP if you are unsure about whether or not your child has been vaccinated."
Symptoms of measles may include a fever, cough, red eyes and a blocked nose. A blotchy rash appears on the face and spreads to the rest of the body over several days. People are usually infectious from the day before their first symptom shows to four or five days after the first appearance of the rash.
Any parent who suspects their child has measles should not send them to school or nursery and should contact their GP. For more information on measles, please visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/pages/introduction.aspx
Nationally, Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health are running a catch-up programme to prevent measles outbreaks by vaccinating as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds as possible in time for the next school year.