MMR vaccination call following recent measles cases in university students
Public Health England and Universities UK are asking students to check that they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine in the past, following an increase in confirmed cases of measles over the past few weeks.
Cases have mainly been confirmed in unimmunised adolescents and young adults, some of which are known to be university students in the South. Many of these cases have been admitted to hospital.
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. It’s now uncommon in the UK because of the effective MMR vaccination programme. Although it may be a mild illness in children, measles can be more severe in adults. Those who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, remain susceptible to the disease.
It’s never too late to have the vaccine. Students who have not received two doses of the vaccine in the past – or who are unsure – should speak to their GP. There’s no harm in receiving an additional dose if there is any uncertainty.
Students are also asked to remain alert to measles, which can include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature or a red-brown blotchy rash. Those experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention, but phone ahead before visiting GP surgeries so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected. Those who have been in close contact with someone who has measles should also see their GP, if they have not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven’t had the infection before – particularly those who are immunosuppressed, pregnant or infants.
Two doses of MMR vaccine are routinely provided as part of the NHS Childhood Immunisation Programme in England. Uptake is now high with more than 90% of children receiving 1 dose of the vaccine by 2 years of age, but uptake of the vaccine was lower at the time the majority of current university students were offered the vaccine as children.
This week (commencing 25 April) is European Immunisation Week and PHE has published a blog on the avoidable health threats every student should know about. Keep an eye on their Twitter account @PHE_UK and Facebook page ‘Public Health England’ for further advice.