Welsh health officials warn of measles outbreak

Welsh health officials warned on Tuesday measles have been spreading across the country at an "alarming" speed, and an endemic could leave un-vaccinated children brain-damaged or dead.

The Swansea-centered outbreak could rival an outbreak that occurred in Dublin more than a decade ago. From March 4 to March 26, the number of cases rose from just over 200 to 432. The disease had spread to children across 111 secondary and primary schools, nurseries and play groups by the end of last week, the Independent reports.

"Worryingly there are still tens of thousands of susceptible children across Wales, yet our weekly monitoring of vaccination rates shows only a slight increase in numbers receiving MMR jabs," Marion Lyons, the director of health protection at Public Health Wales, said, according to the Independent. "If the numbers of parents bringing their children for MMR jobs does not dramatically increase, measles will continue to spread and quickly reach levels last seen in the outbreak in Dublin in 1999/2000. In that outbreak over 1,200 children were infected and three died."

Lyons said the risk to un-vaccinated children increases as the disease spreads.

"You only need one or two people who haven't had the vaccination in a community 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," Lyons said, the Independent reports. "A simple and safe jab from your [general practitioner] will protect your child's health, could save their life and will help protect other children, too. It is the only precaution you can take at this time, and I would urge parents to contact their GP today to get their children's MMR vaccinations up to date."

Though most of the reported cases are in the Swansea area, other cases across the middle and western regions of Wales have also been reported.

PHW is urging parents of children between age one and 18 in Wales to contact their doctors to schedule vaccination for their children. The health department also advised parents to keep ill children at home, avoid contact with individuals who may have compromised immune systems and to inform health institutions of any rashes, according to the Independent.