Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a campaign to stop the spread of misleading anti-vaxx information and to increase the number of children receiving jabs following a rise in measles cases.
The number of cases of measles in the first three months of 2019 more than quadrupled in comparison to the same period last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed in April. During the first quarter of 2019, there were 231 cases of measles in the UK.
Britain has lost its "measles-free" status with the WHO three years after the virus was eliminated.
Parents will be offered new evidence-based advice to address their concerns about vaccinations and to correct false information about the dangers of vaccinations, the prime minister will announce.
Mr Johnson has called for health leaders to renew their efforts to ensure 95 per cent have had both doses of the MMR vaccine.
Here, we take a look at everything you need to know about measles, from signs and symptoms to treatment options.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that if left untreated can lead to serious complications, the NHS states.
Anyone can get measles if they have not been vaccinated or haven't had it before. However, it is most common in young children.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of measles develop between six and 19 days after contact with the infection, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) states.
The first symptoms, which usually last two or three days, include feeling generally unwell and having a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, and a fever which may be as high as 40C.
Children may also complain that bright light hurts their eyes.
Some children develop 'Koplik's spots' – tiny white spots on a red background inside the mouth – a day or two before a blotchy red-brown skin rash may appear
This usually starts on the head or upper neck before spreading outwards to the rest of the body, the NHS states.
What is the meningitis glass test?
The meningitis rash test is a way of telling if blood poising ( septicaemia ) has occurred as a result of meningitis. If a rash does not fade when pressed against a glass, the NHS states you should seek medical advice right away.
Meningitis Now – the first meningitis patient group in the world – say the best way to perform the glass test is to:
- Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
- Spots/rash may fade at first
- Keep checking
- Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
However, the organisation does advise that you should not wait for a rash to appear to seek medical help. If someone is and suffering from symptoms thought to be as a result of measles, get medical help immediately.
How does measles spread?
According to the NHS, the measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
This means you can easily catch measles by breathing in these droplets or by touching a surface the droplets have settled on and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.
People with measles are infectious from when the symptoms develop until about four days after the rash first appears.
Can measles be prevented?
The most effective way of preventing measles is through the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine , GOSH states.
Most children in the UK receive the MMR immunisation; the first dose is offered at 13 months and the second at three years and four months.
Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven’t been fully vaccinated before.
For more information about the vaccination, the NHS advises to consult your GP.
You can find out more about the dangers of unvaccinated children here .
How is it treated?
The NHS states that there are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
- taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains (aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years old)
- drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity
- using damp cotton wool to clean the eyes
- staying off school or work for at least 4 days from when the rash first appears
In severe cases, especially if there are complications, you or your child may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
How common is measles?
In April, the WHO revealed that initial figures showed that 112,163 cases of the highly infectious disease were reported across 170 countries since January, compared to 28,124 in the same period in 2018.
During that time period, health officials confirmed that 555 measles cases had been confirmed in the US alone.
And while 20 states had reported cases, New York was been the epicentre , accounting for two-thirds of all cases.
The organisation stated that there had been a 300 per cent rise in cases reported in Europe – which last year saw the highest number of cases for a decade – and a nearly 700 per cent rise across Africa.
In Madagascar, the infection had killed more than 1,200 people . The country is facing its largest measles outbreak in history, with the number of recorded cases growing beyond 115,000.
Outbreaks have also been recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine.
For more information, visit the NHS website here .
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