Public Health England has confirmed 120 measles cases in five English regions and is urging parents to vaccinate children who have not been immunized.
While the overall risk is still low in the UK, measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can potentially be fatal.
Cases in England appear to be stabilizing, but outbreaks of the disease can happen at any time.
In 2012 there were more than 2,000 cases of measles in England and Wales. It was the largest outbreak in two decades. Meanwhile, in the US, at least 159 people contracted measles during a 2014 outbreak initiated in Disneyland by a foreign tourist.
Last year medical experts declared the disease had been "eradicated" in the UK. However, following two confirmed independent cases last fall by the National Health Service, as well as this latest outbreak, it is unclear whether this status will still stand. For a disease to be considered eradicated it must cease to freely circulate in the country for three years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO also states that measles is a common cause of death among children globally. In 2016 there were just under 90,000 measles deaths globally, marking the first time the number had fallen below 100,000 annually.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Experts recommend parents immunize their children with two doses of the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose between the ages of 4 and 6. Teens and adults should also be up to date.
An international surveillance program analyzes monthly reports on suspected and confirmed measles and rubella cases. However, it only reflects a small proportion since many patients do not seek health care and cases go unreported.
Still, measles continues to spread despite a widely available and effective vaccine.
The virus is transmitted through water droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms usually appear 7 to 14 days after infection. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots – known as Koplik spots – may appear inside the mouth, before a rash breaks out. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 40°C (104°F).
There is no specific antiviral solution for measles, and treatment includes good nutrition, adequate fluid intake, and rehydration therapies. If diagnosed, children are also given a vitamin A treatment as the disease can lead to a deficiency in this important vitamin.
[H/T: BBC News]