Cluster of new measles cases emerge
Monday 14th October 2013, 5:51PM BST.
Health chiefs are looking at four new measles cases in a renewed outbreak of the virus in a region hit by a major epidemic just three months ago.
Two cases of the potentially deadly illness, which re-emerged in south Wales less than two weeks ago, have already been confirmed.
Experts continue to focus on Cwmtawe School in Port Talbot, south Wales, where the cluster of new cases have been reported.
An urgent immunisation session took place at the secondary school last week after it emerged that more than 200 pupils were not fully protected.
But Public Health Wales (PHW) is now urging parents to ensure their children are given the second MMR “booster” jab.
That is because many of those immunised last week only needed the booster, having received an initial jab in a catch-up session held during the epidemic.
All those immunised then would have been advised to make sure that they received the booster jab within a month, but subsequently did not do so.
The new cases brings to nine the current total, and comes three months after the end of the epidemic in the greater Swansea area, the biggest outbreak of the virus ever to hit Wales.
More than 1,200 people contracted measles, 88 serious enough to visit hospital, and one person died in the outbreak which began in November last year.
“Public Health Wales has been notified of a further four cases of measles associated with a cluster of cases in South West Wales,” a spokesman said.
“There are now seven cases associated with Cwmtawe School, Neath Port Talbot, two of which have been laboratory confirmed.
“Last week, two cases were identified in children in Ysgol Y Cribarth, Powys, who are connected to one of the confirmed cases at Cwmtawe School.”
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, PHW consultant in communicable disease control, added: “According to health records one case had received a single measles vaccine but none had had any doses of the MMR vaccine.
“This again demonstrates the importance of getting your children vaccinated with two doses of MMR which is needed to provide the maximum 99 per cent protection against measles, mumps and rubella.”
PHW said that more than 100 school pupils were found not to be fully immunised at the vaccination session held at Cwmtawe School on 8 October.
During that session 55 people were immunised, but at least 46 children did not take up the offer of vaccination.
Records showed that most people who attended the clinic were given the second dose, or booster, of the MMR vaccine rather than the first dose.
It indicates pupils who had the first dose in catch-up sessions organised during the epidemic did not follow advice to get the second one within a month.
“PHW is reminding all parents in Wales that their children are at risk if not fully vaccinated with two doses of MMR. Vaccination can be arranged at any time via the family GP,” a PHW spokesman added.
All parents of unvaccinated children in Cwmtawe School and Ysgol Y Cribarth have received letters urging them to arrange for their children to be vaccinated.
Powys Teaching Health Board has made arrangements for susceptible children at Ysgol Y Cribarth to be immunised individually due to the small numbers of children needing vaccination.
“This cluster of measles cases comes only three months after the end of Wales’s biggest ever measles outbreak, which was centred on the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board area,” the spokesman said.
“More than 75,000 people were immunised during the outbreak, but it’s estimated that 30,000 children in the 10 to 18 age group remain unvaccinated in Wales that could lead to another outbreak.
“To prevent the spread of infection, parents of children who become unwell with measles-like symptoms are asked to keep them at home and seek medical advice, and not to allow them to attend school or events where other children will be present.
“The symptoms of measles include a fever, fatigue, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and a distinctive red rash. Measles is very contagious and can cause serious complications and in rare cases can be fatal.”
The first dose of MMR is usually given to babies at 12 months of age and the second at three years and four months of age, but it is never too late to catch up on missed doses.
The MMR vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization, UK Department of Health and Public Health Wales as the most effective and safe way to protect children against measles.
Anyone who thinks they or their child has the symptoms of measles should contact their GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47.