- New NHS guidelines have been drawn up to look out for measles in children
A major measles outbreak is looming in Britain this winter which would lead to ‘a lot of deaths’, senior doctors warn.
Falling vaccination rates have led to resurgence of the once-rare disease which officials are worried could be ‘disastrous’ for the NHS.
Experts are so concerned they have drawn up new guidelines for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to ‘think measles’.
In an unprecedented move, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is asking health professionals to check the vaccination records of all children arriving at hospital.
Any showing symptoms of the disease, such as a fever and cough, should be immediately isolated while staff ought to wear personal protective equipment.
Experts are so concerned they have drawn up new guidelines for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to ‘think measles’ (Stock Image)
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should also be promoted to anyone who has not had both doses, says the college.
The guidance comes amid measles outbreaks across the UK and Europe, with cases reported in cities including Sheffield, Leicester, Cardiff and London.
It is arguably the most infectious disease in existence and the World Health Organisation recently warned of a ‘perfect storm’ for a large-scale outbreak.
The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, breathes or sneezes and can linger in the air for up to two hours. Vaccination uptake must be as high as 95 per cent to stop the disease in its tracks.
But falling inoculation rates and the hangover from Covid means only 85 per cent of five-year-olds in England have had the recommended two doses, according to the latest data.
Historic vaccine hesitancy over the MMR also means that cases are being reported among teenagers and adults.
Poor vaccine uptake in London means an outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in the capital, warns the UK Health Security Agency.
Professor Helen Bedford, of University College London, said: ‘If we get more cases, we’re going to see a lot of very ill children and a lot of hospitalisations.
Historic vaccine hesitancy over the MMR also means that cases are being reported among teenagers and adults (Stock Image)
‘People still die from measles in the UK but if numbers come to fruition, then we will see a lot of deaths. It’s not just some mild childhood illness.
‘The challenge with measles is you can’t just get a high uptake and then let it drop – it has to stay there. It’s considered to be the most infectious disease there is.’
Royal College president Dr Camilla Kingdon said the health service is already facing winter surges in respiratory infections, flu, Covid and Group A Strep.
‘To add another highly contagious and dangerous disease into the mix would be disastrous and could bring our already fragile system to its knees,’ she warned.
According to the most recent official data, there have been 149 confirmed cases in England, with more than half in London. But the true number is likely to be higher.
Experts urge anyone, including adults, who has not had two MMR doses to get vaccinated.