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Measles cases in London have caught up with West Midlands

Measles cases in London have caught up with West Midlands

London has caught up with the West Midlands in the number of measles cases seen in the past month, the latest public health figures show.

Since 4 March there have been 190 confirmed cases in England with 63 of them in London and 65 in the West Midlands, the UK Health Security Agency said in its latest update.

It brings the total cases since October to 934 with the highest numbers seen in the first three months of this year, the figures show.

More than one in ten cases in the past month have also been seen in the East Midlands, the breakdown noted.

Another small cluster has been seen in the North West. Officials first declared a national incident in January after a rapidly spreading outbreak in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

While that appears to now be on a downward trend, concerns remain about the potential for an outbreak and rising cases in the capital.

However, NHS England said the MMR catch-up campaign has led to a boost in jab uptake in the first three months of the year.

Between 1 Jan and 24 March 2024, there were a total of 360,964 MMR vaccinations delivered, up almost a quarter (23%) from 293,847 in 2023, it said. This included 187,737 first doses and 171,635 second doses.

The campaign saw more than a million unvaccinated or partly-vaccinated 6-11-year-olds targeted, with parents urged to book an appointment at their child’s GP practice.

It follows data suggesting that uptake of childhood vaccinations in England remains too low and could lead to a re-emergence of other vaccine-preventable diseases.

A national marketing campaign to encourage parents to immunise their children has been launched and there are ongoing MMR catch-up campaigns for children and adults.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist, said: ‘We are continuing to see measles cases in all regions of England, with cases particularly high in the West Midlands and London, so it is vital that people are fully protected by two doses of the MMR vaccine.

‘It only takes one case to get into a community with low vaccination rates for measles to spread rapidly, especially in schools and nurseries.

‘We know that hundreds of thousands of children around the country, particularly in some inner-city areas are still not fully vaccinated and are at risk of serious illness or life-long complications but measles is completely preventable with vaccination.’

The latest figures on whooping cough, also published at the end of last week, show there were 1,468 confirmed cases in January and February compared with 858 in the whole of last year.

It includes 52 infants aged under three months with confirmed whooping cough between January and February 2024, UKHSA said.

Pertussis cases are cyclical with the last peak in 2016. The latest rise is happening after a prolonged period of low rates as a result of the pandemic.

But there are concerns that the current outbreak is coinciding with declining uptake of the vaccine in pregnant women and in young children, increasing the risk of more severe cases.

Maternal vaccine uptake fell from 74.7% in December 2017 to 59.5% in December 2023 although it has risen slightly since last year, the figures show.

Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA director of public health programmes, urged women who were more than 20 weeks pregnant to get in touch with the GP or midwife if they had not had the vaccine.

‘Our surveillance indicates an increase in whooping cough cases in England during February.

‘Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but for very young infants, it can be particularly serious. Getting the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy is a highly effective way to protect your baby in the first few months following birth.’

Cases of scarlet fever are also higher than the five-year average but below the levels seen in last winter’s outbreak.

Between 1 January and 24 March 12,176 cases of scarlet fever were notified compared with 15,933 in the same period last year, UKHSA said.


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A B 8 April, 2024 2:22 pm

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