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Measles cases in Greater Manchester surge to 32 since January, lack of vaccination blamed

Published on 08/03/19 at 11:07am

There has been a sharp increase in cases of measles across Greater Manchester, Public Health England has warned, following increasingly frequent reports of surges in incidence of the condition across Europe and the US.

Thirty-two cases have so far been confirmed – a very significant upsurge considering that until the end of January this year there had only been five confirmed cases. Throughout 2018, there was a total of 144 confirmed cases, up from 127 the previous year.

The rise in cases has been said to again indicate a rise in vaccine scepticism – one of the ten major threats named by the World Health Organization in its report Ten threats to global health in 2019 – which has bubbled up in part due to distrust in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. While misinformation around the safety of vaccines is rife online and predominantly on social media – to the point where NHS Chief Simon Stevens has warned against its impact – much of this distrust is thought to originate with a repeatedly-debunked medical paper linking the MMR vaccine to increased risk of autism – a paper which was once again debunked earlier this week.

"The majority of the cases are in unvaccinated children," commented Dr Kristina Poole, from Public Health England North West, adding: "MMR is a highly effective and safe vaccine."

The UK was declared to have eradicated measles by the WHO in 2017, but the same organisation’s data also indicated that rates of measles cases tripled in Europe from 2017 to 2018 to reach 82,596 total cases. The news in the UK also follows an outbreak of measles in New York, and reports that an unvaccinated French boy reintroduced the condition to Costa Rica.

Matt Fellows

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