Friday, 26 April 2013
Health and Wellbeing: Measles- the facts
On behalf of our health and wellbeing arm, Steve has looked at media reports of the current measles outbreak and rounded up some advice for parents, employees and businesses to protect themselves and others against infection.
You will have seen in the press of late that there has been a measles outbreak in Wales, with some cases in the North West of England. Here is some information that can help you decide whether you need to seek further advice on immunisation from your GP, and whether measles poses a risk to you, your children, relatives or employees.
Why is it so important to be vaccinated against measles?
Contrary to what you may think, measles is a very infectious, nasty illness which, in rare cases, can be fatal. About one in five children with measles experiences complications such as ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, pneumonia, and even eye problems. One in 10 children with measles ends up hospitalised. There is no treatment for measles- vaccination is the only way of preventing it.
Can adults catch measles?
Yes, and as with many 'childhood' illnesses caught by grownups, adults are likely to be more ill than children, and for longer. Someone with measles generally has to spend five days in bed and be off work for 10 days. Adults are also more prone to measles complications than children.
We don't live in or near Wales, so why should I be worried?
Outbreaks of measles can happen anywhere at any time, so wherever you live in the UK it’s important that your children are up-to-date with their MMR and other childhood vaccinations. If your child has already had two doses of MMR vaccine, you don't need to worry. However, if they've only had one dose, or have not been vaccinated at all, they really should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
What if I'm going to travel to or near to an area with an outbreak?
If you have plans to travel anywhere close to or within the outbreak areas, make immediate arrangements with your GP for your children to receive the MMR vaccination if they haven’t had both doses before. Babies aged six to 12 months can also be vaccinated and children aged up to three can have their second MMR jab a month after the first.
Can my children still have the MMR vaccination if they weren’t vaccinated as babies?
Safety of the MMR jab
The late 1990s report by Andrew Wakefield that suggested a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease has since been completely discredited.
There is no evidence that MMR can make a child chronically ill. It is a very safe and effective vaccination. It's never too late for your children (or yourself) to ‘catch up’ with MMR vaccination if they missed it earlier. Children up to the age of 18 and adults without immunity should have a catch-up MMR vaccination.
I can't remember if I had my child vaccinated. How do I find out?
MMR vaccination is usually given as a first dose around the age of 13 months and then again as a ‘booster’ jab before school at age three to five. If your child has already had the vaccine it should be recorded in their medical notes and in their personal health record (the `Red Book`). Ask your GP if you’re not sure.
What do I do if my GP doesn't know if my family has been vaccinated?
If you or your GP are unsure whether your children have been vaccinated against measles before, then go ahead and arrange to have your kids vaccinated again. It absolutely will not hurt them to have the MMR vaccination a second or third time.
Will I have to pay for the MMR vaccination?
No, MMR vaccination is available to adults and children free on the marvellous NHS!
Can you still get measles after the MMR vaccination?
It’s extremely unlikely, but you need both doses of the MMR vaccine to be completely protected. The first dose of the MMR jab gives 90% protection and the second dose tops this up to 99% protection.
How do I arrange vaccination?
Just call your GP' surgery and make an appointment for an MMR jab. It involves two doses which can be given just a month apart to protect as quickly as possible. If you aren’t registered with a GP, find the nearest doctor’s surgery who will give your family the jabs.
Can adults have the MMR jab?
MMR vaccination isn't just for kids. Adults who are unsure whether they’ve had measles or been vaccinated can have the MMR vaccine on the NHS from their GP. Consider that most adults born before 1970 are likely to be immune because they have probably been exposed to measles already.
The decision of whether to vaccinate an adult takes into account past vaccination history, the likelihood of an individual remaining susceptible and the future risk of exposure and disease:
● Individuals who were born between 1980 and 1990 may not be protected against mumps but are likely to be vaccinated against measles and rubella. They may never have received a mumps-containing vaccine or had only one dose of MMR, and had limited opportunity for exposure to natural mumps. They should be recalled and given MMR vaccine. If this is their first dose, a further dose of MMR should be given from one month later.
● Individuals born between 1970 and 1979 may have been vaccinated against measles and many will have been exposed to mumps and rubella during childhood. However, this age group should be offered MMR wherever feasible, particularly if they are considered to be at high risk of exposure. Where such adults are being vaccinated because they have been demonstrated to be susceptible to at least one of the vaccine components, then either two doses should be given, or there should be evidence of seroconversion to the relevant antigen.
● Individuals born before 1970 are likely to have had all three natural infections and are less likely to be susceptible. MMR vaccine should be offered to such individuals on request or if they are considered to be at high risk of exposure.
Individuals with unknown or incomplete vaccination histories
People coming to the UK from developing countries will probably have had a measles-containing vaccine in their country of origin, but may not have received mumps or rubella vaccines. Unless there is a reliable history of appropriate immunisation, individuals should be assumed to be unimmunised and seek help from their GP.
Contraindications to MMR are few, but it should not be given to
• Those who are immunosuppresed
• Those with a confirmed previous reaction to either mumps, measles or rubella containing vaccines, or to neomycin or gelatin.
• Pregnant women.
NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/measles-outbreak-advice.aspx
If you are worried about measles or any other symptom, please contact your GP surgery for further information.