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Measles outbreak hits a new total since 2023 across England and Wales

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UKHSA reports 35% surge in measles cases in London 

Despite warnings from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) last year, measles outbreaks have escalated across England and Wales since the start of 2024, recording a new high in the capital city of London.

According to the latest epidemiological overview published by the health agency, there has been a significant surge in laboratory-confirmed measles cases, totaling 89 in England alone, bringing the cumulative number since October 1, 2023, to 1023.

While the crisis was previously more pronounced in the West Midlands, recent data highlights London as having the highest number of new confirmed cases, along with smaller clusters in the East Midlands and the North West.

An assessment by the UKHSA mid-last year had deemed the risk of a measles epidemic in the UK to be low.

However, it warned that due to lower vaccination coverage levels in London, a measles outbreak could potentially result in 40,000 to 160,000 cases in the capital alone.

In the four weeks since March 2024, there have been 195 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles.

While, London reported 35 per cent cases, the West Midlands reported 32 per cent, and the East Midlands reported 12 per cent.

Dr. Rob Verrecchia, UKHSA Health Protection Consultant, emphasized that measles is an “extremely infectious” yet “entirely preventable” disease.

He stressed that it takes just “one case to enter a community with low vaccination rates for measles to spread rapidly,” particularly in schools and nurseries.

Verrecchia further urged parents to check their child’s Red Book to ensure they are up to date with their MMR and other routine vaccines, and to consult with their GP regarding any missed vaccinations.

Witnessing over 1,000 cases being reported since October, Dr Mary Ramsay, the UKHSA head of immunisation, said:

“Last year, UKHSA warned of the risk of a major measles outbreak in the capital if uptake of the MMR vaccine didn’t improve. NHS and local areas have been working tirelessly on improving access and working with us to encourage people to get their children vaccinated.”

The COVER programme data reveals immunization coverage below 90% for some vaccines at 24 months which includes measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR1), with slight declines in uptake for various vaccines in late 2023.

Despite slight increases for some age groups, currently, coverage remains below herd immunity thresholds.

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