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More measles cases continue to be recorded in Swansea, as health professionals advise parents to do all they can to make sure their child is vaccinated.
Public Health Wales confirm that the measles outbreak has now increased to 765 recorded cases, with 72 cases since Thursday highlighting that the issue is far from under control. Since the outbreak began 77 people have been hospitalised.
In response, the health body is pursuing a programme of vaccinations in the Swansea area, in collaboration with schools and health professionals, at the same time as children are returning to school after the Easter holidays and likely to see the virus spread further.
Director of health protection, Dr Marion Lyons, offers some advice and insight, saying: “Plenty of opportunities are being offered to parents to vaccinate their children against measles, but parents need to make sure they take these opportunities.
“We can’t bring this outbreak to an end unless the parents of unvaccinated children either arrange vaccination with their GP, call into one of the weekend drop-in sessions or ensure that if their child attends a school where vaccinations are being offered, and they have signed a consent form for them to be vaccinated.
“Children who do not have signed consent forms cannot be vaccinated so it is crucial that parents ensure they have given their consent.
“We are reminding parents that although children of all age groups are being affected by this outbreak, the highest attack rate is in children aged 10 to 18. These are the children who may not have been vaccinated because of concerns about the safety of MMR in the late 1990s. The vaccine is safe, effective and the only protection against a potentially fatal disease.
“Although the outbreak is at present affecting the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas, we have cases of measles in every health board area in Wales and we have no way of knowing where the outbreak might spread. As children return to school after the Easter holidays, the opportunities for measles to spread increase. Now is the time to vaccinate your children.”
Dr Lyons continues: “Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). MMR vaccination offers the only protection against these complications.
“The MMR vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization, UK Department of Health and Public Health Wales as the most effective and safe way to protect children against measles. The alarming numbers of cases of measles and continuing spread of the disease in Wales illustrates how vital it is for parents to get their children vaccinated.
“Unvaccinated children aged between six and 12 months living in or travelling to the outbreak areas of Swansea and Neath-Port Talbot can be offered vaccination by their GP. There’s no adverse effect to this extra jab and those children would still need to receive the recommended two doses at 13 months and three years and four months of age.”
Chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Ruth Hussey, offers advice for parents with children in the early years, saying: “Unvaccinated children aged between six and 12 months living in or travelling to the outbreak areas of Swansea and Neath-Port Talbot can be offered vaccination by their GP or go along to one of the vaccination sessions.
"There is no adverse effect to this extra jab and those children would still need to receive the recommended two doses at 13 months and three years and four months of age. If you live elsewhere, please contact your GP to arrange a vaccination.
“The more serious complications of Measles are pneumonia or encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain. MMR vaccination offers the only protection against contracting the disease.”