Public Health Wales (PHW) has declared a measles outbreak in the capital city, with seven young children confirmed to be infected over the last six weeks. The outbreak has raised alarm bells, prompting health authorities to urge parents to ensure their children are up to date with the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine, which is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease.
Measles, an infectious disease caused by a virus, is easily transmitted through tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth, similar to the common cold. The symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, small white spots inside the cheeks, and a distinctive red or brown rash that typically starts on the head and spreads down the body. The rash may be more difficult to detect on darker skin. Parents are advised to keep children with these symptoms at home from school, nursery, or any childcare settings, and away from vulnerable individuals.
Sion Lingard, Consultant in Health Protection for Public Health Wales, emphasised the seriousness of the situation, stating, “Links have been found between all seven cases, so while there is currently no evidence of wider community transmission, measles is an extremely contagious infection, and we are concerned that people who are not protected by vaccination could be at risk. It can be expected that more cases may be identified over the coming weeks.”
The MMR vaccine, usually administered in two doses, first at 12 months and the second just after three years of age, is pivotal in preventing measles outbreaks. PHW has reassured parents that those children who have not yet reached the age to receive their second dose need not take immediate action.
“Measles is highly infectious, and the only way to prevent outbreaks is through vaccination. We urge parents whose children have not received two doses of MMR as offered to ensure that they speak to their GP surgery to arrange this quick, safe, and effective vaccine. If children are not yet old enough to receive their second dose, they don’t need to have this earlier than scheduled,” said Lingard.
Furthermore, PHW has extended its appeal to adults who have not received the vaccine, advising them to catch up on their immunisation. Individuals who have not been vaccinated may face restrictions, including withdrawal from in-person contact with schools and nurseries if they are identified as contacts of someone with measles due to the high risk of infection.
Complications arising from measles are alarmingly common, with one in ten children requiring hospitalisation due to severe complications such as pneumonia and meningitis. Tragically, for every 1000 cases of measles, at least one fatality is reported due to the complications of the infection.
In light of the outbreak, PHW has also issued a reminder of the common signs and symptoms of measles, including high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, small white spots inside the cheeks, and a whole-body rash that usually begins on the face and neck before spreading further.
Public Health Wales continues to closely monitor the situation and is urging the public to remain vigilant, emphasising the importance of vaccination in curbing the spread of this highly contagious disease. Parents are encouraged to contact their GP or check symptoms on NHS 111 Wales online if they suspect their child might be infected, taking care to alert healthcare providers of the symptoms before attending any appointments.