Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed outbreaks of measles in Leeds, Liverpool and now also in Birmingham.
Measles is one of the most highly infectious communicable diseases. Spending 15 minutes or more in direct contact with someone infected with measles is considered a significant exposure. Immunocompromised patients, pregnant women and unvaccinated infants are at increased risk of severe disease. Anyone can get measles if they haven't been vaccinated or they haven't had it before, although it's most common in young children.
The most effective way of preventing measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first MMR vaccination should be given when your child is around 13 months old and a booster is given before your child starts school.
It is very important not to come to the practice if you think you have measles. If you do, you risk passing on the infection to others in the waiting room. If you have symptoms of the disease please telephone us in the first instance.
Measles is very infectious. Someone with measles should not go to school/work or socialise until 5 days after the onset of the rash. They should particularly avoid contact with babies, pregnant women and people who are immunosuppressed either as a result of illness or treatment.
Symptoms of measles to look out for:
The initial symptoms of measles appear around 10 days after contact with a case. The measles rash usually appears a few days afterwards. The illness lasts for up to 10 days.
The initial symptoms of measles include:
- Cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing
- Red eyes and sensitivity to light
- A mild to severe temperature
- Tiny greyish-white spots (called Koplik's spots) in the mouth and throat
- Tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy
- Red-brown spotty rash (see below)
The measles rash appears two to four days after initial symptoms and lasts for up to eight days. The spots usually start behind the ears, spread around the head and neck, then spread to the legs and the rest of the body.
The spots are initially small but quickly get bigger and often join together. Similar-looking rashes may be mistaken for other infections, but measles has a range of other symptoms too, not just a rash.
There are signs of other related illnesses or complications of measles. Measles usually gets better by itself, but sometimes it can cause middle ear infections or chest infections and although Measles causes a cough, this is not usually persistent, or productive, but in some cases, the cough will be more persistent and phlegm will be produced.
In rare cases, the most serious complications are caused when the Measles virus infects the brain and causes encephalitis; this causes severe drowsiness and confusion and requires hospital treatment.
There's no specific treatment for measles and your immune system should fight off infection within a couple of weeks.
There are several things you can do to help you feel more comfortable, including:
- closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity
- using damp cotton wool to clean the eyes
- In severe cases of measles, especially if there are complications, hospital treatment will be needed.
Although vaccinated people are unlikely to catch it, keep away from other people for at least five days after the rash has appeared.