The BBC has reported on an increase in cases of measles in England and Wales. According to HPA figures, 275 confirmed cases of measles were reported between January and April. There were 33 cases for the same period in 2010. The HPA press release has notes with further details: a breakdown of cases by region; a note that the figure of 275 is provisional* and likely to be higher; and figures for uptake of MMR vaccine from September to December 2010.
The regions with the highest number of cases of measles are London and the South East (86 and 78 cases respectively). As Peter Flegg pointed out in a guest blogpost here last November, the uptake of MMR vaccine in this country was below that required for herd immunity – and uptake in London was lower than in other parts of the country:
In London, where vaccination rates are traditionally lowest, the uptake of both MMR shots by the age of 5 ranges from a dismal 32% in Brent to a still inadequate 82% in Barnet.
Dr Flegg argued that, while the low national vaccination rates seen around a decade ago could be blamed on the scaremongering that followed Andrew Wakefield’s retracted study, the recent low uptake of MMR vaccine in London was likely to be linked to the “high indices of social deprivation and resultant erratic or even non-existent contact with health services”.
When I wrote about European Immunization Week last month, I linked to the WHO website’s report of the increase in incidence of measles in Europe (which is largely accounted for by outbreaks of measles in France). It looks like England and Wales are now being affected by the outbreak that has been spreading across Europe.
While it’s tempting to blame the mainstream media (and let’s face it, it’s always tempting to blame the Daily Mail where possible), I’m not sure that the blame for the current outbreaks can be laid at their door.
Edit, 27th May
The Guardian has now reported that:
Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed 334 confirmed cases of measles to the end of April in England and Wales, compared with 33 cases for the same period last year, and 374 in all of 2010.