Back to school with a book bag, pencil case, school uniform … and MMR vaccine

As pupils across Somerset prepare to return to school next week, the County Council’s Public health team is asking parents to check if their children have had their two doses of MMR vaccine.

The appeal comes after Bristol and other areas of the UK have seen a big rise of measles this year. Since January, Bristol has seen 86 confirmed cases of measles and a further 20 probable cases.

Measles is preventable through the safe, effective MMR vaccine which is offered as part of the childhood immunisation programme. Children usually receive the vaccine within a month of their first birthday and ahead of starting school at 3 years 4 months.

Dominic Mellon, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health England South West, said: “Unfortunately, we know that the school environment provides a perfect place for infections to circulate and spread. This is why we are asking parents to add the MMR vaccine to their back to school lists.

“If your child catches measles, apart from feeling very unwell, they will also miss out on several days at school. We know life can get busy with children. If you can’t remember, just contact your GP who will be able to check your child’s records.  If they have missed a dose, a catch-up vaccine can easily be arranged by contacting your GP.”

Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing at Somerset County Council said: “I would strongly encourage parents and carers to check whether their children have been fully immunised before the start of term.

“Somerset has seen only two cases of measles so far this year, but we must not be complacent. It’s never too late to be vaccinated. Measles is highly contagious and can be very nasty, even life threatening, so if you or your children need it then don’t put off vaccination.

“It is quick and easy to get and really is the best protection for everyone. It’s time to help make measles a disease of the past.”

Measles is a viral illness, starting with cold like symptoms such as runny nose, high temperature and sore eyes.  A few days later the distinctive red-brown blotchy rash will appear. Usually starting on the head or neck and then spreading outwards to the rest of the body. Once the distinctive rash appears, they should stay away from school for at least four days to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.”

For information on measles visit www.nhs.choices/measles

Measles starts with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after becoming infected. This is followed a few days later by the measles rash. For most people, the illness lasts around 7 to 10 days.  The initial symptoms of measles can include:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots in the mouth
  • aches and pains
  • a cough
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

Information at www.nhs.uk/measles