Expert warns of early red flag symptoms of killer disease as cases surge across UK

An expert has warned of the early symptoms of a potentially fatal disease. Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicate there have been 1,767 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles across the country so far in 2024.

This is almost five times the amount of cases reported for the entire of 2023 when there were 362. The latest outbreak started last October, with the majority of cases detected in Birmingham.

Other parts of the UK have since been affected. Cases peaked in April, with 381 reported in just one month.

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Measles is a highly contagious infection which causes a rash and can lead to dangerous complications - such as pneumonia and seizures. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable.

Dr Donald Grant, senior clinical advisor at The Independent Pharmacy, said: "Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread through coughing and sneezing, it’s one of the most spreadable diseases which has led to a sharp increase in cases across the UK. With over 1,500 reported instances of measles so far this year, it’s important to understand the telltale signs of the infection and what to do should you contract the illness.

"Symptoms of measles typically begin around seven to 14 days after infection and are particularly dangerous to young children and those with weakened immune systems - proving fatal in some cases."

According to Dr Gant, there are three early symptoms you should not ignore. He said: "So, what are the symptoms of the viral infection?

"If you’re experiencing a high fever, tiny white spots or conjunctivitis, you could be in the early stages of the illness." These will likely be followed by a rash.

He said: "The rash stage then begins three to five days following these initial symptoms, starting at the face and quickly spreading to other portions of the body. These rashes typically last just under a week before fading.

"It’s vital that we’re aware of the signs of measles due to its highly infectious nature. Prompt awareness of this infection can reduce the spread and help people manage their symptoms more effectively."

You should seek 'urgent' medical attention if you think you or your child have measles, Dr Gant said. He added: "It’s also incredibly important to isolate yourself from other members of your household and avoid public places.

"Should you need to go outside, such as to visit your GP, using a mask can effectively reduce levels of transmission. Keep an eye out for more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing."

Paracetamol or ibuprofen could be used to help bring the fever down. The NHS says a runny or blocked nose, sneezing and a cough can be early signs of measles.

Getting vaccinated is the best method of protection against measles. The MMR vaccine protects you from measles, mumps and rubella.

It is offered to all children in the UK through the NHS. Dr Grant added: "To prevent the likelihood of future outbreaks in your home, ensure everyone has received their MMR vaccine, available through the NHS.

"This is vital for young children - who are at an increased risk of death if they contract the viral infection. Receiving the vaccination will help avoid these horrific symptoms while reducing the spread, which continues to rise throughout the UK this year."