Fears Grow of Measles Epidemic As Cases Rise

from Lincolnshire Echo .. 

Cases of measles diagnosed by Lincolnshire doctors have doubled in the past year. 

Lincolnshire GPs reported 28 instances of the highly infectious disease in 2008 compared to 15 in 2007 and 17 in 2006. 

New statistics released by the Health Protection Agency show the number of measles cases in England and Wales at their highest for more than a decade. 

And a low uptake of the MMR jab has been blamed for the outbreak. 

Agency spokesman Dr Mary Ramsay said: "A relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade means that measles is spreading easily among these unvaccinated children. 

"The agency is concerned that we may see measles epidemics take hold. 

"Although MMR coverage is starting to improve, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal." 

The combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella was introduced in the UK in 1988 to replace single vaccines. 

Parents are invited to vaccinate their youngsters at 13 months and once again before they start school. 

The uptake of the MMR jab declined due to a media furore that followed a 1998 study published in the medical journal The Lancet. 

The study linked the jab to autism and bowel disease. 

And although many studies of the MMR since 1998 have concluded the three-in-one jab is safe, many parents still refuse to vaccinate their children. 

A total of 85 per cent of Lincolnshire's youngsters receive the MMR in line with the national average, but the Department of Health wants this figure increasing to 95 per cent. 

Despite GPs notifying the agency of 28 county measles cases last year, Janine Rayfield, nurse consultant in infectious disease at NHS Lincolnshire, said there were no lab reports to confirm a single case. She said that while GPs might not take mouth swabs from patients in some areas of the country, in Lincolnshire it is routine procedure to confirm a measles case. 

"They might not carry the kit with them on a home visit but they come and collect it later," said Ms Rayfield. 

Retired GP and Lincolnshire representative for the British Medical Association, Dr David Baker, said he could not understand why Lincolnshire GPs had reported 28 measles cases and yet none of them were confirmed by lab tests. 

"Maybe GPs are swabbing and maybe they are forgetting to," he said. 

"It is a case of what is theoretical practice and what is actual practice." 

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