Wales deals with largest measles outbreak in decade

Public Health Wales said on Wednesday that the country is dealing with its largest measles outbreak in the last decade, with more cases of the disease being confirmed each day.

Health officials confirmed 316 cases of measles in Wales during the outbreak after the number of cases in the Neath Port Talbot and Swansea areas rose by 64 in the last week. Officials said the numbers could reach 1,000 in a few weeks unless more parents get their children vaccinated against the disease, WalesOnline reports.

"There is an ongoing outbreak of measles in West Wales," Teresa Owen, the director of public health for Hywel Dda Health Board, said, according to WalesOnline. "To control this outbreak we need to vaccinate all children and young adults who have previously not had a full course of MMR vaccine. We cannot overemphasize the need for children to be vaccinated in order to control this outbreak. Even if your child has already had measles in the current outbreak or previously, they still need to have MMR vaccine to get protection against mumps and rubella."

In 1998, a now-discredited report by Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine with autism, dealt a blow to measles vaccine coverage worldwide. The unfounded vaccine scare made the uptake drop significantly.

"You only need one or two people who haven't had the vaccination to put at risk babies, toddlers and anyone else who is vulnerable, such as children with leukemia who cannot have the vaccination, and pregnant women who haven't been vaccinated," Marion Lyons, the director of health protection at Public Health Wales, said, according to WalesOnline. "We are urging parents of unvaccinated children to make immediate arrangements with their GP for their children to receive the MMR jab, to prevent further spread of the disease and further misery."

Health officials confirmed the disease in 111 primary and secondary schools, playgrounds and nurseries. The outbreak has also hospitalized 42 people, WalesOnline reports.