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July 2018

Measles cases soar by 60%

Public Health England has reported a 60% increase in the number of cases of measles in England, from 274 in the whole of 2017 to 440 by May of 2018, and has declared a national measles incident.

The news comes despite an announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 that measles had been effectively eliminated in the UK.

It is thought that many of the cases have been imported from Europe: there have been several outbreaks across Europe in countries where MMR uptake has been low, including Romania, France, Greece, and Italy, with 48 measles deaths reported in the European Union since 2016.

Other cases of measles infection have been reported in young adults with an incomplete vaccination history. Coverage for the first dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in 5-year-olds has reached the WHO target of 95% in the UK, but there remain unvaccinated young adults who were not vaccinated following the MMR scare in the late 1990s.

The diagnosis of measles can be easily missed because of its similar presentation to other common febrile illnesses associated with a rash. It is therefore vital that primary care clinicians have a high level of clinical suspicion, particularly in children who may be under-vaccinated, live in high-risk communities, or have recently travelled to areas where measles is still endemic, say the authors of an editorial in the British Journal of General Practice.

Moten M, et al. BJGP 2018, Online first.

July 2018