St. Helens hit by measles outbreak

St. Helens, a town in Merseyside, United Kingdom, has experienced 10 measles cases since the start of the year, making it the most widespread measles outbreak in the area since the 1980s.

There have been 301 confirmed cases of measles in Merseyside since the beginning of 2012, including 42 cases in nearby Knowsley. There are still 148 probable cases of measles under investigation, the St. Helens Reporter reports.

"This has been the largest outbreak of measles in the Northwest since the introduction of MMR vaccine 24 years ago and it has demonstrated just why this vaccine is so important in protecting the public health," Robert Vivancos, a consultant with the Health Protection Agency, said, according to the St. Helens Reporter. "Parents of young children clearly value the protection, security and peace of mind that the MMR vaccine affords, but there remains a pool of older children, teenagers and young adults who are not vaccinated and remain vulnerable to measles, mumps and German measles."

While the British Medical Association is planning industrial action on Thursday, most general practitioners will still see patients for urgent appointments.

"Our message to older teenagers and young adults is that if you were not vaccinated as children, it's not too late," Vivancos said, according to the St. Helens Reporter. "You should speak to your family doctor about the MMR vaccine because, without its protection, you will remain vulnerable to three potentially very serious diseases. It is a tribute to the hard work of the team here at the Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit, and to our colleagues in local NHS services, that this outbreak was largely confined to Liverpool and neighboring areas. Their efforts were immense. At one time we had an operations center open seven days a week."