The number of measles cases in England dropped to the lowest level recorded since 1995 in the final quarter of 2013, following a GP-led MMR catch up campaign instigated after huge numbers were reported at the beginning of the year.
The figures released by Public Health England (PHE) on Friday show there were 24 confirmed cases in the final three months of 2013, down from the 587 cases reported in the first quarter and the 309 cases in the final quarter in 2012.
The report recognises the impact of a national MMR catch-up campaign – launched in response to the measles outbreaks – which sought to get 95% of 10-16 year olds vaccinated before the new school year began.
GPs were at the forefront of the campaign, as they were asked to identify, notify and immunise ‘at risk’ children on their lists.
There were outbreaks in the south west of England and other parts of the country last year, following a major outbreak in Wales that saw 432 cases reported in March alone and left health boards contemplating school exclusions for unvaccinated children.
The new figures also show that the number of cases is continuing to fall, with 103 confirmed cases in the previous quarter.
Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE’s head of immunisation said: ‘The best way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups, so it’s heartening to see the success the catch-up programme had in ensuring 95% of 10 to 16 year olds in England received at least one dose of the vaccine.’
However, the report also indicates that cases of mumps rose slightly in the last quarter of 2013, with 520 confirmed cases, up from 506 cases in the previous quarter, and there was no change in incidence of rubella with three cases confirmed.
Dr Ramsay added: ‘Although mumps has increased a little from the same quarter of last year the numbers remain much lower than the levels seen in 2004/5, when outbreaks were reported in several universities.’
‘This probably reflects the fact that most young people now attending university were eligible for two doses of MMR as children.’