Health officials warn holidaymakers to check if they are up-to-date on their MMR jabs amid outbreaks of measles across Europe
- A total of 6,265 cases of measles were recorded in EU between January and April
- Public Health England urged holidaymakers to check their families are protected
- France, Italy and Poland have recorded the most measles cases so far this year
Health officials are warning people to make sure they’ve had their measles jabs before going on holiday this summer.
More than 6,000 cases of measles have been diagnosed in the EU so far this year, with the highest numbers in France, Italy and Poland.
Public Health England today issued its message to travellers to make sure they and their children have been vaccinated.
PHE said people who missed out on their MMR jabs when they were children are most at risk of contracting the deadly disease.
People in the UK get the measles, mumps and rubella jab for free on the NHS. Only two doses are need to make someone immune to the disease for the rest of their life (stock image)
‘Measles can kill and is incredibly easy to catch, especially if you’re not vaccinated and travelling to affected countries,’ said PHE’s head of immunisation, Dr Mary Ramsay.
‘If you’re in any doubt about your – or your child’s – vaccination status, ask your GP or check your child’s Red Book.’
Measles cases have risen in the UK – there were 313 diagnosed between January and March – but infections in some European nations are significantly higher.
France has been the worst affected in the EU, with 964 cases of measles diagnosed between January and April, the most recent data.
Italy has recorded 861 cases, Poland 766, Romania 632, Lithuania 550 and Germany 368.
HOW MANY MEASLES CASES HAVE EU COUNTRIES HAD THIS YEAR?
Source: January to April data from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Cases in Spain, another popular holiday destination for British people, have been significantly lower with just 72 in the first four months of the year.
Ukraine, although not included in PHE’s warning because it isn’t in the EU, now has the second highest rate of measles in the world, second only to Madagascar.
In the six months to March there were a massive 60,972 cases diagnosed in the country, according to the World Health Organization.
A director at the Association of British Travel Agents, Nikki White, said: ‘Travellers might not typically think to check vaccination requirements for travel to Europe.
‘But we encourage everyone to check their health records and catch-up on any missed vaccinations wherever they are travelling to.
‘No matter where people are going on holiday, we always encourage them to check the Foreign Office’s travel advice at the time of booking and before they are due to travel to make sure they are aware of the latest information about the destination and any health requirements.’
British people are given the MMR vaccine at the age of 12 months and again before they start school, but it isn’t mandatory.
Some people choose not to have their children vaccinated, which is a growing concern because it puts others at risk of catching the illness.
At least 95 per cent of people should have had the jab to achieve herd immunity, which is when everyone is protected, including those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Research published earlier this week showed France – which currently has the highest measles rate in the EU – is the most anti-vaccination country in the world.
And East and West Europe are the world’s most sceptical regions when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of jabs, a study by research charity Wellcome found.
WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an infected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.
Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.
The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading.
Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.
In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.
Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious.
‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.
‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’
Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.
Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
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