Fears on spread of measles epidemic

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Extra efforts are being made to contain a measles epidemic amid fears of an outbreak outside the worst affected area.

Public Health Wales (PHW) warned yesterday of its concern over a rise in cases in the Gwent area, taking in Newport.

It comes as figures for the greater Swansea area, the centre of the epidemic, show a further slowing in the number of cases.

An extra 13 measles cases have been recorded in the last two days, bringing the headline total for the area to 1,074.

The three main areas affected have been greater Swansea, covered by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, and the Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas.

Concern remains high that the worst affected 10 to 18 age group is still not coming forward for vaccination in large enough numbers.

The headline rate for measles cases across Wales now stands at 1,237. The Gwent area is of particular concern because it has seen 84 cases since the start of November.

Almost 10,000 of the 10 to 18 age group within the Gwent Health Board area are known to be without measles protection.

For the first time this weekend a drop-in clinic will be held in Newport giving the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab to anyone in need of vaccination.

Since the outbreak of the measles epidemic in November more than 43,000 non-routine MMR jabs have been given.

Over that period in the greater Swansea area the number of unvaccinated children has reduced by 46 per cent, but concerns persist because there are 38,000 still unvaccinated across Wales.

With fewer than 2,500 of the 10 to 18 age group receiving the MMR jab in Gwent so far there is the potential for further outbreaks.

Dr Marion Lyons, PHW director of health protection, said: “Thirteen new cases in the last two days may not seem like a lot, but it should be remembered that in 2011, we only saw 19 measles cases in the whole of Wales for the whole of the year.”