Almost twice as many confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales have been reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the first six months of 2012 (964) compared to the same period in 2011 (497), according to latest figures published today (Friday). Overall 1,086 cases were reported in 2011, up from 380 in 2010.

 Rubella has also shown an increase with 57 cases reported between January and June this year – exceeding the annual totals for each of the previous nine years. These cases have mainly been associated with travel to other European countries.

 The measles cases identified so far this year have been associated with the ongoing Merseyside and Sussex outbreaks, as well as several smaller outbreaks in travelling communities across England in recent months.

 The latest published data on the uptake of both doses of the MMR vaccination in England is 93 per cent for the first dose and 87 per cent for the second dose. In Wales, the uptake of the MMR vaccine is 95 per cent for the first dose and 88 per cent for the second dose. Coverage has increased dramatically since 2002 (when coverage for the first dose was below 80 per cent) and therefore some older children may not have been protected and may now be contributing to the increasing numbers of cases reported.

 Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “It’s extremely concerning that measles cases are continuing to rise. Measles can be very serious and parents should understand the risks associated with the infection, which in severe cases can result in death.

“Although uptake of the MMR has improved in recent years some children do not get vaccinated on time and some older children, who missed out when uptake was lower, have not had a chance to catch-up. Therefore, there are still enough people who are not protected to allow some large outbreaks to occur among unvaccinated individuals.

“It’s vital that children receive both doses of the MMR vaccination and ahead of returning to school after the holidays, we are urging parents to ensure their children have received the two doses, which will provide the best protection against the risks associated with measles, mumps and rubella.

“If you are unsure if your child has had two doses of the vaccination, speak to your GP who will have a record of which vaccinations your child has received.”

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