Measles strikes 140 people across England, figures show

The measles outbreak that has rocked five regions of England has now infected 140 people, new figures reveal.

Some 47 confirmed cases of the life-threatening infection have been reported in the West Midlands. 

And 35 people have now been struck down with measles in West Yorkshire, 29 in Cheshire and Liverpool, 22 in Surrey and seven in Greater Manchester. 

The figures, released by Public Health England, have prompted officials to urge parents to ensure their kids are vaccinated against it. 

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, believes the outbreak could be down to travellers coming back to the country from Europe.

The measles outbreak that has rocked five regions of England has now infected 140 people, new figures reveal (stock)

Italy, Germany and Romania are all currently being rocked by epidemics of measles, which is a highly contagious viral infection. 

She added that in order to avoid an epidemic in the UK, parents should vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

However, measles vaccination rates in children have been dropping consistently in recent years – and are now below recommended levels.

Dr Ramsay said: ‘The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.

‘People who have recently travelled, or are planning to travel to Romania, Italy and Germany and have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk.’

‘This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at one year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years and four months of age.

The World Health Organization claims people's fear of vaccines, along with complacency, means many, particularly young children, are unprotected against measles

The World Health Organization claims people’s fear of vaccines, along with complacency, means many, particularly young children, are unprotected against measles

Region of England  % vaccinated
North East
North West 
Yorkshire & Humber  
East Midlands 
West Midlands
East of England 
South East 
South West  
Source: NHS immunisation statistics 

‘Children and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up.’

The outbreak comes just months after European health leaders declared that the ‘elimination’ of measles had been achieved in the UK.


Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an injected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.

Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.

The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading. 

Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.

In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.

Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious. 

‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain. 

‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’

Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.

Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital 

Government officials announced their ‘delight’ at the ruling, by the European Regional Verification Commission. 

The elimination of measles or rubella can be verified once a country has sustained ‘interruption of endemic transmission’ for at least 36 months. 

To prevent a measles outbreak, it is recommended that 95 per cent of the population is immunised against the infection.

Only 91.9 per cent of children were vaccinated against measles between 2015 and 2016, according to NHS immunisation statistics.

This is compared to 94.2 per cent in 2014 to 2015 and 94.3 per cent in 2013 to 2014.

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims people’s fear of vaccines, along with complacency, means many, particularly young children, are unprotected. 

Slowing rates could be down to disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield’s theory in 1995 that the MMR vaccine is linked to bowel disease and autism.

His controversial study, which was published in The Lancet, has since been retracted and his views have been widely discredited. 

The WHO warned last year that measles was spreading across Europe in regions where vaccination rates are low, mainly Germany, Italy and Romania.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed there were 19,000 measles cases between January 2016 and November 2017.  

The highest number of cases in 2017 were reported in Romania, where 7,759 people suffered, followed by Italy with 4,775 cases and Germany with 898 sufferers.

The outbreak across the EU led to at least 46 deaths. 


In 1995 the gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.

He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.

After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’

At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.

Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004 the then-editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by attorneys seeking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.

The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.

Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.

On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.

At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.

Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.