Measles map shows hotspots across the UK as cases surge

Measles map shows hotspots across the UK as cases surge

Shocking new figures have laid bare the extent of the measles crisis in the UK, as England faces its largest outbreak in more than a decade. Data released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows a total of 2,049 laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease since cases began to surge in October last year.

Concerningly more than half of these cases (63 percent) were seen in children aged 10 or younger, who are most vulnerable to serious complications. This increase in cases comes two years after the UK was stripped of its measles-free status by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO said the UK had eliminated measles in 2016 due to the success of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is administered to babies and children twice before they reach the age of four. But the latest outbreak has been linked to a steep decline in MMR vaccine uptake, with health officials urging parents to ensure their children are protected.

A closer look at the figures shows that 30 percent of the measles cases have been seen in young people and adults aged 15 and over. London has had more confirmed cases than any other region, with 740, followed by the West Midlands (663), and the East Midlands (176).

Separate figures show that the UKHSA received notifications of 736 suspected cases of measles from GPs in England and Wales last month alone. These are alerts that GPs are required to send to the UKHSA every time they diagnose a case of what they believe to be measles.

While these cases have not been confirmed in a laboratory, they show suspected infections in council areas and can provide an early warning of possible outbreaks.

You can see the suspected cases in England and Wales with our interactive map.

Since last October, the UKHSA has received notifications of just under 7,000 suspected cases in England, plus another 500 in Wales. Based on the number of lab-confirmed cases since October, around 30 percent are likely to test positive for measles.

These figures show that Birmingham – where the current outbreak began – has had the most suspected cases since October with 439, including 14 in June. Next was Manchester with 160, and then Wandsworth and Leicester with 149 each.

The London borough of Lambeth had the most suspected cases last month with 20, followed by Wandsworth, also in London, with 19, and then Coventry with 16.

Vaccine concerns

The UKHSA has blamed the spread of the disease since October on low take-up of the MMR vaccine in parts of the country. In England, 92.5 percent of children had received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of five in 2022/23, down from 93.4 percent the previous year and below the national target of 95.5 percent.

Only 84.5 percent have received both doses. The WHO said coverage must be 95 percent or higher to achieve population-level immunity.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKSHA, commented: “This year in England we have seen a steep rise in measles cases, observing the highest number of cases reported in over a decade. London has been particularly impacted in the most recent months, with most cases in unvaccinated children under the age of 10 years.

“The MMR jab offers the best protection against measles. Measles is preventable but many thousands of children around the country are still not fully vaccinated and may be at risk of serious illness or life-long complications. No parent wants this for their child.

“Just one case of measles in a community with low vaccination levels can lead to outbreaks, especially in schools and nurseries. Parents should check their child’s red book now to ensure that children are up to date with the MMR and other routine vaccines.

“If you are unsure, contact your GP practice to check. Your GP can provide the vaccinations your child needs to ensure they are protected.”

Key symptoms of measles include a high fever, coughing, sneezing, red and sore watery eyes, and a rash that usually appears after the initial symptoms. Measles can lead to potentially fatal complications if not caught quickly including pneumonia, meningitis, blindness and seizures (fits).

You should ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if you think you or your child has measles.