Parents are being urged to check their children are vaccinated amid an increase in measles cases across the country.

Brighton and Hove is susceptible to measles outbreaks because the city has a lower than average take up of vaccinations.

To be best protected against the illness, advice is to ensure people have received two doses of the MMR vaccination.

By five years old, 87.6 per cent of people in the England had the recommended two doses of the MMR jab, the latest data shows.

In Brighton and Hove, this falls to 84.4 per cent.

The Argus: Data from the LGA comparing Brighton and Hove vaccination rates (blue) with the average rates for English unitary authorities (green). There is a drop after 2020, due in part to the Covid pandemicData from the LGA comparing Brighton and Hove vaccination rates (blue) with the average rates for English unitary authorities (green). There is a drop after 2020, due in part to the Covid pandemic (Image: LGA)

Rachel Mearkle, consultant in health protection for the UK Health Security Agency in the South East, said: “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness and can be a serious infection that can lead to complications especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“We are seeing an increase in measles cases internationally and in England, particularly in the West Midlands. Though measles spreads very easily it is preventable.

“To help protect ourselves, our families and those around us it is vital we all ensure we are vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine, free on the NHS whatever your age.

“Parents can check their children’s red book to see if they are up to date and contact their GP surgery if they aren’t sure and book an appointment to catch up any doses they have missed.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Healthwatch said: “The MMR vaccine provides excellent protection against measles and is free on the NHS. 

“During the Covid pandemic, uptake of routine childhood immunisations has fallen globally, leaving many children unprotected from serious infections and communities at increased risk of outbreaks.”

Symptoms of measles appear ten to 12 days after contact with the virus and include:

  • cold-like symptoms such as runny or blocked nose, sneezing and cough
  • red, sore, watery eyes
  • high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C / 104F
  • a non-itchy, red-brown rash usually appears three to five days later (sometimes starts around the ears before spreading to rest of the body), spots may be raised and join to form blotchy patches – which may be harder to see on darker skin tones
  • small white spots may appear inside cheeks and the back of lips (for a few days)

The chairman of the city’s health and wellbeing board, Councillor Bruno de Oliveira, said: “The best way for parents to protect their children from measles is to ensure they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine.   

“I took my toddler to have his MMR vaccine a couple of weeks ago after our GP contacted us to offer a time slot. I would urge all parents to do the same.

“If you or a family member develops any symptoms of measles please contact your GP by phone. Please do not go to your GP, walk-in centre or any other healthcare setting without calling ahead, as measles is very infectious.

“We’re supporting local and national NHS vaccination campaigns to make sure people know how important it is for their family to be protected.

“We’ve shared further information and advice with local family and parent carer groups, children and young people’s services, care settings, maternity services, as well as schools, universities and community groups.

“We also work closely with professionals and community partners to help us reach families we’re not always able to get to.”