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Nottingham at risk of measles outbreak as MMR rates low, say health chiefs

Nottingham is at risk from a measles outbreak due to its low vaccination rates, public health experts have warned.

The UK Health Security Agency declared a national health incident last week due to a surge of cases in the West Midlands.

Nottingham’s MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination rates are below the national average, with one in four people having never had the jab.

Measles can cause severe illness, with 20 to 40 per cent of children who get it needing hospital treatment.

More than 150 cases have been recorded in an outbreak in the West Midlands this winter – although cases in the East Midlands currently remain very low.

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Public health figures show two cases were reported in Nottinghamshire in the week ending January 21 – one in Ashfield and one in Nottingham City.

Lucy Hubber, director of public health at Nottingham City Council, urged unvaccinated people to get the jab, whatever their age.

“To get to herd immunity, we need 95 per cent vaccination. England has a whole has 85 per cent, and Nottingham has 75 per cent,” she told the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Wednesday (January 24.)

“We really would be at risk if measles starts showing up in the region.

“We are urging everyone to make sure they have their MMR vaccination. It is never too late, and just one jab gives you 80 per cent protection.

“It’s incredibly contagious, so it is really important people don’t go to their GP or A&E if they think they have it. Ring your doctor or call 111 instead, and keep children off school.”

She said the West Midlands cases, had an unusually high hospitalisation rate and were occurring across all age groups.

Sixteen cases were recorded in Birmingham in the week ending January 21, and 28 in the West Midlands overall.

The MMR vaccination rate for Nottinghamshire as a whole is 86 per cent.

Dr Husein Mawji, director of the Nottingham City GP Alliance, said: “We are most concerned about vaccination rates in the city itself. There is inequality, with some communities far more vaccinated than others.

“It’s worth noting Nottingham has a large student population which has returned from all over the country after Christmas.”

A letter with advice is being sent out to all schools and nurseries across the county.

The UK was declared measles-free in 2017, but lost this status two years later and has been grappling with lower vaccination rates.

Younger adults in something known as the “Wakefield generation” among experts are advised to check their records, as public trust was hurt by false claims in a research paper that linked the MMR vaccine to autism in 1998.

The term refers to Andrew Wakefield, the author of the paper, who was struck off and the research was retracted.

Highly infectious and starting with cold-like symptoms leading to a rash, Measles can sometimes cause complications such as pneumonia and meningitis.

But the development of the MMR vaccine meant it became extremely rare, before small clusters of cases began to appear in recent years due to the gaps in vaccination rates.

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