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The facts about measles

Main image 17 May, 2019

There has been a lot in the news recently about the drop in the number of children undergoing their routine vaccinations and a subsequent rise in the number of cases of diseases such as measles. Many believe the spread of misinformation through social media is the source of this problem, with so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ sharing unsubstantiated claims and creating doubt amongst parents. Given the seriousness of measles, it is vital that we reverse this decline in the uptake of vaccinations. We therefore asked YourGP’s Medical Director, Dr Shakeel Kacmarsky, to clarify the facts.

How serious is measles?
Measles is most definitely not a minor illness, in fact it can lead to profoundly serious complications. For example, the latest research shows that for every 1000 people infected, 90 people will have a serious ear infection – some resulting in permanent deafness, 60 will get pneumonia, 5 will have convulsions, 1 will have encephalitis (brain swelling) with 50% left with permanent brain damage. In the UK, it has a 1 in 5000 mortality rate.

How infectious is measles?
Measles is highly infectious and it’s much easier to catch than flu.

How is it spread?
Measles is a virus which is spread through the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Who is most at risk?
Anyone who is non-immune can be infected, but immunosuppressed patients, young babies and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.

How can you protect yourself from measles?
The MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent measles, as well as mumps and rubella. It is safe and highly effective, in fact every national and international health authority in the world strongly advises that children receive the MMR vaccine.

How successful has the MMR vaccine been so far?
Thanks to measles vaccination programme which has been running in the UK since 1968, it is estimated that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths in the UK alone have been averted.

Have the rumours of a link to autism now been refuted?
Absolutely. Just to be clear, there has never been any link proven between the MMR vaccine and autism. There have been many studies conducted across the world over the last 20 years – the latest study looked at over half a million 8 year olds in Denmark and found absolutely no difference in rates of autism between MMR vaccinated and non-vaccinated  children.

How damaging have the ‘anti-vaxxers’ campaigns been?
Sadly, there are well-funded individuals and groups who, through the manipulation of social media, continue to spread disinformation about MMR and other vaccinations which is not based on any scientific evidence whatsoever. Alarmingly, this has had a significant impact on the MMR vaccination rate and, as a consequence, we are currently experiencing the largest outbreak of measles for decades, particularly in the USA and parts of Europe.

Where can I get more information about measles and the MMR vaccine?
The medical experts at YourGP are more than happy to discuss any questions you might have about vaccinations. We are open six days a week, with short-notice, same-day appointments available. Just call 0131 225 5656 or email reception@your.gp and we’ll be happy to answer any concerns and put your mind at ease.

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