Measles is in the news again. Just to provide a little context, the graph above shows the number of confirmed measles cases in England and Wales since 1996*. The impact of insufficient vaccine coverage is easy to see. This year is looking like being a good year for measles; not so good for vulnerable members of the community. According to the BBC, “The Health Protection Agency [HPA] reported 334 cases compared with 33 in the similar period last year.” In fact, this is rapidly approaching the total of 374 cases reported for the whole of 2010. It seems that this is related to “an epidemic in France, where 7,000 cases have been reported since January – more than in the whole of 2010.”
The HPA are advising “Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad, it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised.” Although the coverage with the MMR vaccine is improving in the UK, it is “still far from the 95% uptake rate needed to stop the spread of the disease in the community.”** One reason for this is the damage done by the media*** uncritically promoting the views of the disgraced Andrew Wakefield† and other vaccine scaremongers.
Measles and MMR: the risks
It’s easy to forget just how dangerous measles is. Those of us who grew up in times where it was more common may tend to look back on measles as an inconvenient rite of passage. Generally, this is because we may not have had direct personal experience of the serious consequences that can arise from a measles infection. In the years since, vaccination brought diseases like measles under control and people have, thankfully, become even less familiar with the dangers. Read the rest of this entry »