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Measles – what you need to know

Friday, 12 April 2013
Q What is measles?
Measles is a highly-infectious illness, which is caught through direct contact with an infected person or through the air via coughs or sneezes. 
measles.jpgMeasles mainly affects young children, but can be caught at any age. Having measles once usually confers lifelong immunity to catching it again.
Measles can be a very serious disease and cause severe, even life-threatening, complications. In the UK, complications are quite common even in healthy people and approximately 20% of reported measles cases experience one or more complication.
Complications are more common among children under five, those with weakened immune systems, children with a poor diet and adults. Catching measles in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour or a baby with a low birth weight.
Before the introduction of measles vaccination in 1968, around 100 children a year in England and Wales died from the disease.
Q What are the symptoms of measles?
Measles starts with a fever, which can get very high. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes.
About four days after infection a rash of tiny, red or brown spots breaks out. This rash starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. It can last for a week and coughing can last for 10 days. Some children who get measles also get diarrhoea or ear infections.
Children who get measles can be off school for 10 days or more and, in some cases, they may need to be admitted to hospital.
Q What do I do if I think my child has measles?
If you suspect measles (you or your child has the symptoms described above) contact your GP surgery and tell them you or your child has a rash illness before attending so arrangements can be made to minimise contact with other vulnerable patients.
Please remember the GP out of hours service, which operates on weekday evenings and at weekends, is for urgent health problems only; information and advice about measles and its symptoms is available from NHS Direct Wales by calling 0845 46 47.
Anyone with measles should be closely monitored for complications. Hospital treatment may be required if serious complications develop.
One to three out of every 5,000 children in the UK who get measles will die from the disease, even with the best care. 
The MMR jab is the most effective and safest way to protect children against measles.
Q How do I protect myself and my children against measles?
Measles can be prevented by a highly effective and safe vaccine. This is part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunisation.
A complete course of the two doses will protect more than 95% of children against measles, mumps and rubella. The current immunisation schedule recommends one dose to be given at around 13 months and a second dose given at between three and five years of age.
The MMR vaccine has been used for nearly 30 years (it was introduced in the US in the 1970s), is currently used in more than 100 countries, and more than 500 million doses have been given.
Studies from around the world have shown MMR to be a highly effective vaccine, with an excellent safety record.
Uptake of MMR in both Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf is relatively high but there are many children who have either not had the jab or have had only one dose.
Q Where can I get vaccinated in Cwm Taf Health Board?
Vaccination is available via your normal GP surgery. Frontline NHS staff in Cwm Taf Health Board area can contact occupational health for vaccination.
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