Use our interactive map to see how many measles cases have been reported in your area as the surge in cases is currently the highest number in over a decade
The UK hotspot for the outbreak of a Victorian disease affecting British children has been revealed, with hundreds of youngsters affected.
Nearly a thousand cases of measles have now been reported in the first few weeks of the year, in what is the highest number of suspected cases in the same period for more than a decade. It comes after the World Health Organisation declared the potentially deadly illness eliminated in the UK in 2017.
But as uptake for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) drops to its lowest in a decade, the disease has been on the increase. As of the week ending February 4, doctors have identified 959 suspected infections so far this year, including 335 in the last week.
The figure is an exponential 1331% rise from just last year, when, in the same five-week period, there were just 67 cases. Even 10 years ago, before the WHO declared the UK had beaten measles, there were less than a third as many cases during the first five weeks of 2014 (241) as GPs have seen this year.
Data has revealed the UK’s epicentre of the outbreak. The West Midlands is seeing the bulk of measles cases, the figures show. GPs in Birmingham have diagnosed 134 suspected infections already since the new year. Of these, 26 have been in the last week alone.
Surrounding areas of Dudley (27), Coventry (25), Sandwell (20), and Solihull (18) have all seen multiple cases, still more than most other places in the UK. But parents in the North West have been warned cases are also spreading quickly with 57 new infections in recent days, while the East of England (43) and London (42) aren’t far behind.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist, said: “The ongoing measles outbreak in the West Midlands remains a concern. MMR vaccine coverage has been falling for the last decade with one out of 10 children starting school in England not protected and so there is a real risk that this outbreak could spread to other towns and cities. Measles is a nasty illness for most children and for some can be serious, but it is completely preventable.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your children. If you or your child are not up to date with your two doses of MMR vaccine please contact your GP to catch up now.” Uptake figures for the MMR jab are currently at their lowest in a decade, with 92.5% of children in England having received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of five in 2022-23, down from 93.4% the previous year. The national target of 95.5%.
Measles spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools. It can be a very unpleasant illness and in some children can be very serious, leading to hospitalisation and tragically even death in rare cases.
People in certain at-risk groups including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles.