Parents in the North East are being urged to get their children vaccinated after an outbreak of measles in the region.
Specialists at the region’s Public Health England Centre and NHS England are examining six confirmed cases of the illness linked to Newcastle and Gateshead.
Medics have now appealed for parents to call their GP or out of hours service if they suspect they or their children may have measles, a potentially fatal condition.
Approximately 2,000 children aged two to 11 years old in the area have not had an MMR jab which means they are at risk of measles. The illness is highly infectious and can sometimes lead to serious health complications.
Dr Tricia Cresswell of the North East Public Health England Centre said: “Signs and symptoms to look out for include a fever that lasts for a couple of days followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis.
“After a few days a red-brown spotty rash appears which starts on the face and upper neck, spreading down the upper body and then extends to the arms, hands, legs and feet.
“Measles can be a serious illness. During the measles outbreak in the North East last year, over 20% of cases were admitted to hospital. These recent cases are a timely reminder about the importance of making sure children are fully vaccinated against measles by having the full course of the MMR vaccination.
It is never too late to get your children vaccinated – just contact your GP surgery and they will arrange it.”
Officials are investigating the potential source of the outbreak, which has affected both adults and children.
Dr Claire Bradford from NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team said: “Immunisation against highly infectious diseases such as measles is crucial in limiting spread amongst vulnerable people.
“Anyone who has not had an MMR vaccination could catch measles which can be a serious illness. Because of this, it’s really important that as many people as possible are vaccinated. You can still get protected from measles by getting immunised even if you are over 16.
“The NHS has a comprehensive, free vaccination programme and immunity against measles is provided through two injections undertaken by a nurse or doctor at your GP surgery.”
Controversy previously surrounded whether the MMR vaccine could be linked to autism, following a study published in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield. His claims have since been discredited.