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Ask the Expert - Measles

Did you know that the UK has lost its measles-free status? Dr Lucy Hooper, Co-Founder of Coyne Medical, says that although the vaccination is free in the UK, some parents don’t vaccinate their children.

Dr Lucy Hooper

Before the vaccine, approximately 100 children in the UK died every year. Children with measles typically have a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes followed by a rash. “About 10-20% of people will develop complications such as ear infections, pneumonia and diarrhoea,” says Dr Hooper. More serious complications include blindness, seizures and inflammation of the brain. Babies, adults and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.

Measles is highly contagious, spread by coughing and sneezing. ”It’s estimated that each infected person will spread measles to another 15-20 people,” says Dr Hooper.

The best protection is vaccination, usually the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at 12-13 months plus a booster at 3 years, 4 months. The first dose offers 90% protection, increasing to about 97% after the second.

The most common side effect is redness and swelling around the injection site. Up to 10% of children may get a rash with mild fever after 7 days, as their immune system starts to respond. Some may get a mild version of mumps 3 weeks later. Serious complications are very rare and much less common than the complications of measles infection. “We used to worry about giving the MMR to children with egg allergy but this has been shown to be safe.”

The infamous 1998 research paper on a study of 12 children that linked the MMR vaccine to autism has been universally discredited. “More recent studies involving millions of children have failed to show any link to the vaccine and autism.”

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