First case of measles in six years puts NHS on alert

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DOCTORS and schools are on alert after the first case of measles in Portsmouth in six years.

Health officials have put out warnings across the city after an 18-month-old baby recently fell ill with the rare and potentially fatal infection.

The case has shocked and worried the NHS, which is now waiting to see if it was an isolated incident or the start of an outbreak.

Matt Pickerill, NHS Portsmouth’s development manager for health protection, said: ‘This case of measles has come as a bit of a surprise. The worrying thing about measles is it can be a far nastier disease than mumps and rubella – it can be fatal. This is why we are a bit worried. We do not want to start getting more cases.

‘GPs have been alerted and sent the symptoms of measles because for some younger doctors, they may never have seen it before. Schools have been notified as well.’

The child who recently contracted measles had not had the first dose of the MMR jab which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Every child is offered two doses of the vaccination – the first when they are between 12 and 13 months old, and the second when they are three and a half years old.

But the NHS says the uptake of the vaccination in Portsmouth is too low. In 2009/10 only 83 per cent of youngsters had the two doses by the time they were five. The target is 95 per cent.

Parents are being urged to ensure their children have the MMR.

Mr Pickerill said: ‘Negative press in the past meant uptake dropped, but there really is nothing to worry about. The vaccine is very safe and the only way to protect against measles.’

In Hampshire there have been three cases of measles so far this year and seven last year.

If your child has not had the MMR vaccine contact your GP practice.

Young people should also check their vaccination status before going to university.

The Symptoms

Symptoms of measles include feeling unwell, a fever of 38C for more than one day, a rash, a cough, runny nose or conjunctivitis, red eyes and sensitivity to light, tiny greyish-white spots in the mouth and throat, tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy, aches and pains.

If there are no complications, symptoms will usually disappear within seven to 10 days.

The infection is highly infectious and is easily spread by coughing or sneezing.

For more about measles and how to treat it visit nhs.uk/conditions/measles.