Measles is a highly infectious viral illness which can lead to serious complications, such as diarrhoea and vomiting and an eye infection. In rare circumstances heart and nervous system problems can occur.
Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated, and a new report has revealed the total number of cases for the first six months of the year has far exceeded the 12-month totals for every year this decade.
The highest annual total for measles cases between 2010 and 2017 was 23,927 for 2017 and the lowest was 5,273 for 2016.
Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles so far this year. It’s important to recognise the symptoms of measles to avoid potentially deadly consequences. So what should you be looking out for?
A rash is one of the most noticeable symptoms of measles, and there are four signs that make it identifiable.
According to the NHS, the rash will be made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots the may join together into larger blotchy patches.
It will usually first appear on the head or neck before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.
The rash may also be slightly itchy for some people.
Finally, the rash can look similar to other childhood conditions, such as slapped cheek syndrome, roseola or rubella.
A measles rash appears around two to four days after initial symptoms.
Initial symptoms can include; a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, water eyes, swollen eyelids, sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light, a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C, small greyish-white spots in the mouth, aches and pains, a cough, loss of appetite, and tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy.
Alongside a rash, spots in the mouth can also appear.
The health body explains: “A day or two before the rash appears, many people with measles develop small greyish-site spots in their mouth.
“Not everyone with measles has these spots, but if someone has them in addition to the other symptoms or a rash, it’s highly likely they have the condition.
“The spots will usually last for a few days.”
If you suspect you have the symptoms of measles you should contact your GP as soon as possible.
It’s advise you phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
You should also see your GP if you have been in close contact with someone who has measles and haven’t been vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine, or had the infection before. Even if you don’t show symptoms it’s important to do this.
The MMR vaccine is given as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. One dose is usually given to a child when they’re 12 to 13 months old, and a second dose is given at three to four months.