British measles outbreak grows

The U.K. Health Protection Agency recently announced that more cases of the measles have been identified in the county of Merseyside.

The HPA declared the existence of an outbreak last month following the hospitalization of six people from the illness. There are now 85 confirmed measles cases and another 44 probable cases being investigated, according to the BBC.

The majority of cases involve children who had not been administered the MMR vaccine, or infants too young to receive it.

The agency said that non-vaccinated teenagers and young adults are considered to be at risk of infection. Parents have been warned to ensure that their children's vaccinations are up-to-date.

"Measles is highly infectious and unvaccinated children are at risk when it gets into a community, as it has done here on Merseyside," Dr. Roberto Vivancos of the HPA's Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit said, the BBC reports. "Furthermore, when unvaccinated older children pick up an infection they can pass it on to vulnerable infants who are too young to be vaccinated. That would appear to be what's happened in this outbreak."

Measles in an extremely infectious viral illness that can be spread through the air from coughs and sneezes. In the first six weeks of 2011, there was only one confirmed case of the measles in Merseyside.