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Measles Outbreak in South East London

02nd May, 2018

Measles Outbreak in South East London

There’s been an increase in measles outbreaks within Europe, and it’s most recently been sighted in the South East of London.

Measles is a highly contagious infection that can spread at an alarming rate from person to person. The virus can be caught through the likes of direct contact, coughing and sneezing.

There were as many as 160–800,000 cases and 100 deaths per year in the UK before the vaccination came into place in 1963 (the combined MMR was available in 1971), but thankfully, the vaccine did succeed in stripping this figure right down.

The incidences we’re beginning to witness are a reminder to parents that they must act on the routine offer to give their child the MMR jab. It’s also an important reminder to adults who haven’t yet had it – especially if they’re heading to certain parts of Europe this summer or working within healthcare.

How to Spot Measles

Initial symptoms typically develop between ten days and two weeks of being in contact with someone that has the measles virus, so patients may be infected before they even realise.

Symptoms of Measles include:

  • Feeling generally unwell with fever (up to around 40ºC) and irritability, aches and pains, off food/eating.
  • Cold-like symptoms – runny nose, sore (and light may hurt) red and runny eyes.
  • Dry, harsh “croupy” or hacking cough, may persist into recovery.
  • Spots on the gums (2nd and 3rd day) – small, irregular, red with blue or white centres.
  • Red, blotchy rash (3rd or 4th day) starts on the face and behind ears, then spreads down the body over three days.
  • Small red spots join together to make larger flat patches of red or brown completely covering the skin.
  • Rash may peel off or just fade, lasts 6 days in total.

(Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust)

Cases can be confirmed by an oral fluid test (swab wiped around cheeks) through the local Health Protection Team.

Remember: If a patient calls in to say they think they have measles, or if the symptoms described sound similar, they should be kept separately from other patients to avoid the risk of spreading.

How is Measles Treated?

There is no treatment for the virus as such; however, medication can be given to help manage the symptoms. This includes resting and taking paracetamol to control high temperatures.

How to Reduce the Risk of Measles

The majority of people who get infected by measles have not had the MMR vaccination. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended that anyone over the age of 12 months who hasn’t already had the immunisation, does so, as this is the only effective way to prevent the virus.

It’s vital to keep yourself and patients safe, so please take note and be aware of the following:

  • If you see a patient with a rash, it’s important to promptly isolate them and ensure that only staff who are immune care for them.
  • As agency workers, you should have already been screened and be immune. If in doubt, please review your records and get in touch with us immediately.
  • Please review and refresh your knowledge of measles and how to recognise this.

For further information, take a look at the links below:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mmr-for-all-general-leaflet

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/measles-outbreaks-confirmed-in-leeds-liverpool-and-birmingham