British authorities fear measles outbreak in Sussex

British health authorities recently expressed concern that an outbreak of measles in Sussex could develop into a minor epidemic.

Parents are being urged to make sure their children receive both doses of the measles vaccine in hopes that the spread of the illness can be blunted, according to

In 2011, the county reported 172 measles cases, compared with fewer than 10 in 2010. There have been 16 cases confirmed so far this year.

Most of the cases have been in school-age children who had not received both doses of the vaccine, and health officials worry that too many families remain unprotected.

Experts say that the outbreak may have been affected by outbreaks in popular vacation areas in Europe, including France and Bulgaria. It is thought that unvaccinated children may have acquired the infections while on holiday and returned to school where the disease infected others, reports.

Low vaccination rates in some areas of the county, including the seaside resort Brighton and Hove, have contributed to the outbreak. Brighton and Hove's vaccination rate is only 80 percent, one of the lowest in England, though officials say it is fast improving.

"The high number of cases is a concern, especially as measles is a preventable disease," Peter Wilkinson, a public health consultant with the U.K. National Health Service, said, "We would advise people to make sure their children are up to date with their vaccinations as increasing take-up rates is the best way to reduce the chances of cases spreading."