Parents were being warned to immunize their children against the disease, which had already taken the life of a 13-year-old boy earlier this year. The Health Protection Agency have said that the outbreaks in Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire since January have run into hundreds, and that the national total of cases in England and Wales last year was only 77.
Health care specialists have been predicting an increase in the number of cases for some time as people have been putting off from having their children vaccinated with the triple measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine over fears it could bring on autism or bowel problems. Figures released by the department of health for 2004-05 shows that in Westminster, London, just 11.7% of children were immunized by their fifth birthday, while the average across England was 73.3%.
Dr Peter English, consultant at the Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Agency (HPA), reports hat from January there have been 106 confirmed cases in Surrey and Sussex, with 50 or more cases still unconfirmed. He further explained that even in the South Yorkshire there could be as many as 80 cases with about 40 already confirmed. Explaining that there hasn't been an outbreak as big as this in the country since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988 Dr English said that looking at the Surrey figures alone, shows that the epidemic is bigger than anything they've had previously.
He further explained that they were actually not very surprised about the outbreak in this population as many were susceptible to the disease due to a low uptake of the MMR injection, and that measles is highly contagious.