New case of measles being diagnosed every two HOURS in South Wales epidemicNumber of children infected with virus has hit 765A further 72 have caught infection over past week
Experts say epidemic shows no sign of slowing down

Rachel Reilly


17:28 GMT, 16 April 2013



17:28 GMT, 16 April 2013

Immunise: The only answer to the measles outbreak

Immunise: The only answer to the measles outbreak

A child is being diagnosed with measles every two hours in the South Wales epidemic – with the total now standing at 765.

Parents are being urged to act quickly to get their children vaccinated, as the number of sufferers hospitalised since the outbreak has hit 77.

The epidemic in and around Swansea, South Wales, shows no sign of slowing despite major efforts to contain the problem.

Health experts expect cases among children susceptible to the disease to increase with the return to school after Easter.

More than 3,700 children had the vital MMR jab at emergency vaccination sessions set up in a number of hospitals over Easter.

Similar sessions targeting worst hit areas are due to take place tomorrow in a handful of schools in Swansea and Neath and Port Talbot.

Public Health Wales (PHW) released figures today showing that the speed with which the disease is spreading shows no sign of slowing.

The number of measles cases stood at 693 last Thursday and since then a further 72 have driven up the total to 765.

Despite the widespread use of emergency vaccination sessions over Easter, the disease has continued to spread among schoolchildren.

The outbreak of measles is hitting the 10 to 18 age group hardest.

Around 5,000 children are still without the protection of the MMR jab even with progress made in extending vaccination protection.

Estimates of the numbers without protection against measles across Wales has been put at 40,000.

Dr Marion Lyons, PHW Director of Health Protection, said: '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, 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.

Deadly: The virus can cause pneumonia, inflammation of the brain and even death

Deadly: The virus can cause pneumonia, inflammation of the brain and even death

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.

'The vaccine is safe, effective and the only protection against a potentially fatal disease.'

'As children return to school after the Easter holidays, the opportunities for measles to spread increase. Now is the time to vaccinate your children.'

Experts with PHW predict that those not vaccinated are very likely to catch the highly contagious disease.

They warn that it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or dies.

It is inevitable that some children vaccinated in the last two weeks will already be incubating measles and vaccination will not prevent them from becoming unwell, but their illness is likely to be milder than if they had not received the vaccine.

Dr Lyons added: '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).'