Measles cases at 18-year high because parents are failing to get children vaccinated
2,016 confirmed cases in England and Wales in 2012, the highest annual total since 1994
Teenagers not vaccinated when they were younger are at particular risk of becoming exposed, say experts
Several smaller spreads have also occurred in travelling communities across the European Union

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There were 2,016 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales in 2012, the highest annual total since 1994

The number of measles cases in England and Wales has reached an 18 year high, it was revealed today.

There were 2,016 confirmed cases in England and Wales in 2012, the highest annual total since 1994, with most occurring in Merseyside, Surrey and Sussex where there were prolonged outbreaks

Several smaller spreads occurred in travelling communities across the countries, reports the Health Protection Agency.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: 'Coverage of MMR is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed.

'Older children who were not vaccinated at the routine age, who may now be teenagers, are at particular risk of becoming exposed, while at school for example.'

Vaccination rates are now high at 93 per cent in England
and Wales, but in 2002, rates were less than 80 per cent. However, the cases
may be in older children and teenagers who missed vaccines due to the
scandal a decade ago.

The UK along with France, Italy, Spain
and Romania accounted for 87 per cent of the total 7,392 measles cases
reported throughout the European Union countries up to the end of
November 2012.

MEASLES: THE SYMPTOMS
Cold-like symptoms, fever
Red eyes and sensitivity to light
Greyish-white spots in the mouth and throatAfter a few days, a red-brown spotty rash will appear.
It usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the legs and the rest of the body

Dr Ramsay said: 'Measles continues to circulate in several European countries that are popular with holidaymakers.

'Measles is a highly infectious disease so the only way to prevent outbreaks is to make sure the UK has good uptake of the MMR vaccine, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to target unvaccinated individuals in the vicinity as soon as possible.'

Symptoms include cold like symptoms, red eyes and sensitivity to light, fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.

After a few days a red brown spotty
rash will appear. It usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around
the head and neck before reaching the legs and the rest of the body.

The disease can cause brain damage or be fatal.

Dr Ramsay added: 'Measles is often
associated with being a disease of the past and as a result people may
be unaware that it is dangerous infection that can lead to death in
severe cases.

Teenagers who were not vaccinated at the routine age are at particular risk of becoming exposed to the highly infectious viral illness (pictured)

Teenagers who were not vaccinated at the routine age are at particular risk of becoming exposed to the highly infectious viral illness (pictured)

'Parents should ensure their children are fully protected against measles, mumps and rubella with two doses of the MMR vaccine.

'Parents of unvaccinated children, as well as older teenagers and adults who may have missed MMR vaccination, should make an appointment with their GP to get vaccinated.

'If you are unsure if you or your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to their GP who will have a record.'