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Measles 'endemic' in Britain

23rd June 2008

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has warned that measles has "become endemic in Britain, 14 years after its spread was halted in the resident population".

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The HPA said there were enough children in Britain who had not received the vaccination against the disease to ensure a "continuous spread" of the disease.

It said the disease had been able to thrive over the last decade because parents had not allowed their children to be given the to give the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The result has meant the number of vaccinations has fallen below the rate needed to stop measles from thriving in the community.

Statistics published in mid-June showed the number of cases had reached a new high in May, with 95 confirmed cases.

35 cases were confirmed throughout in the remainder of England and Wales. A teenager died from measles last month in West Yorkshire in the first reported death since from the disease since 2006. The yearly total so far is 461.

Measles can have fatal complications and half a century ago was responsible for 500 deaths every year.

The HPA revealed the most recent statistics in its weekly report and said the increase in cases in London was associated with cases at a secondary school which had spread to other schools.

Elizabeth Miller, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: "Now we have reached a point where there are a sufficient number of susceptible [unvaccinated] children in the population to sustain spread of the disease...it is quite disturbing."

 

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