The fall in number of children getting the MMR (combined Measles, Mumps &Rubella) vaccine by their parents has been blamed for the resurgence of measles that has claimed the life of a 13-year-old boy.
In the first three months of 2006 alone it is found that there are more people infected than the whole of 2005. At least 30 children have caught measles in a single outbreak in South Yorkshire. The teenager who died is Britain's first fatality in 14 years. The immunization rates had begun to fall badly after rumours that the triple vaccine causes autism. Currently, 81 per cent of children have the combined vaccine before they are two; many of the other European countries achieve the 95 per cent coverage recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent outbreaks.
There have been 100 cases of measles this year already, as compared with 77 in all of last year. Of the 72 cases of measles confirmed by the middle of last month nine patients were hospitalised. A number of cases were among the travelling community, which has a low uptake of MMR vaccine. Two jabs are needed to give complete protection and, of the 72 confirmed cases, two children had received only the first injection. Many parents are now opting for single vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella rather than the combined jab. This year three patients caught measles despite having had single-vaccine jabs. Two of these were given in South Africa.
The 13 year-old who died was particularly susceptible as he had a weakened immune system receiving drugs for a chronic lung condition. He had not received the MMR vaccine and belonged to a traveller community. Following his death the Health Protection Agency that monitors infectious diseases claimed that more than 100 traveller children have now been vaccinated.
In an outbreak in Doncaster 32 cases have been confirmed and a further 36 are being investigated. The first infections developed among children at the same playgroup who, being less than a year old, were too young to have had the MMR shot. The disease has now spread to older children and nearby areas.
Dr Wendy Phillips, a consultant in communicable disease control for the Health Protection Agency, said that people with measles are very infectious particularly from the start of symptoms to about four days after the rash develops. People, he said are sometimes not even aware that they have measles. Once measles gets into a community, it spreads very quickly to anyone who is not protected.
Despite popular belief that measles has been eradicated in the developed world, lot of people still suffer from it.. In 2004 France had 4,448 cases and Germany had 121. Complications include severe coughs and breathing difficulties, ear and eye infections and pneumonia. Rarely, there can be serious complications affecting the brain and nervous system. The Health Protection Agency urges the parents to have their children vaccinated with MMR.