Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Measles figures 'worst' in London

Measles vaccine
London could be worst affected in the event of a large outbreak, experts say

Health officials have warned of a measles epidemic as nearly 60% of cases reported across the country this year come from London.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show that of 1,049 cases in England and Wales, 626 were in London.

It said this was the highest figure since 1995 and warned of a "real risk" that between 30,000 and 100,000 people could be affected - most in London.

The agency blamed low vaccine uptake over the past decade for the rise.

Below average inoculation

Dr Mary Ramsay, an immunisation expert at the Health Protection Agency (HPA), said: "Over the last few years we have seen an unprecedented increase in measles cases and we are still receiving reports of cases across the country.

"This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully vaccinated with MMR.

"There is now a real risk of a large measles epidemic. These children are susceptible to not only measles but to mumps and rubella as well."

Based on recent research by the HPA, the agency said there is now "a real risk of a large measles outbreak of between approximately 30,000 to 100,000 cases - the majority in London".

In June, the London Assembly heard that the average levels of inoculation in London were 70% compared to 84% nationally.

Experts also told the assembly that the worst immunisation rates were in the boroughs of Newham (55.8%) and Lewisham (58.2%).

The MMR jab protects children from measles, mumps and rubella.

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