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Measles outbreak in South Wales, UK

note-measlesPublic Health Wales has reported an outbreak of almost 190 reported cases of measles in South Wales since November 2012. They are focusing their investigation in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, where 189 cases have been confirmed. Cases have been notified in 32 secondary and primary schools and nurseries across the area, with 20 cases notified in the last week alone. 

According to Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, stated that “people most at risk of catching measles are children of school age who have not had two doses of MMR. We estimate that there are more than 8,500 school age children at risk of measles in the ABMU area at present due to their MMR status.  Children should have their immunisation record, including MMR status, checked at the beginning of primary and secondary school and on leaving secondary school. We cannot emphasise enough that measles is an illness that can kill, or leave patients with permanent complications including severe brain damage, and the only protection is two doses of the MMR vaccination.”

The only protection against measles is the MMR vaccination. There are no other methods to protect a child from measles, other than isolation in a bubble against an outbreak. And despite the fraudulent claims of Mr. Andrew Wakefield and  his acolytes, minions, and disciples, the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. And it does not cause autism.

Measles is just so contagious, that one unvaccinated child with the infection can pass it to nearly anyone that lacks immunity to the disease. An infected child can walk into a pediatrician’s office, where there may be infants who are too young for the vaccination, and pass it to them. Measles is not just a simple disease with a few red spots on your skin.  It can lead to more serious complications like encephalitis and corneal scarring.  In fact, complications are more frequent and severe in older teenagers and young adults (even if healthy), so the need for vaccination has significant benefits even if you’re an adult.

In general, about 30% of children who contract measles develop a more serious complication such as diarrhea, ear infections (leading to deafness) and pneumonia. About 5% of cases require hospitalization from pneumonia, about 1 in 1000 will contract encephalitis, and 1-2 out of a 1000 who get measles dies. Measles kills over 1 million children per year. And these risks are about the same for adults who contract the disease.

Many children are unvaccinated in South Wales. Maybe it’s because they believe the false information promoted by Wakefield and other vaccine deniers. Maybe they forgot to update or complete the vaccination series. Maybe they can’t afford the vaccine (though I don’t think that’s an issue in the UK’s public health system.) It’s the lack of immunized children that have caused this outbreak. Hopefully, parents will see the scientific truth and protect their children.

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Michael Simpson
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