Measles cases in East Midlands are second highest in England - what are the symptoms?

File photo of the measles rashes and spots parents should look out for
File photo of the measles rashes and spots parents should look out for -Credit:Health Check Wales

Cases of measles in the East Midlands have topped 100 this year, making it the region with the second highest number of cases in the country.

More than 1,000 cases of the disease have been confirmed by lab tests in England so far this year. In 2023 a total of 362 cases were seen, which means this year so far has already tripled the cases of last year with the biggest outbreak in more than a decade.

It is suspected that the latest outbreak began in October 2023 in Birmingham, and since then 580 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands. However, cases have been confirmed in every region of England, including 130 in the East Midlands, 69 in Yorkshire and the Humber and 390 cases in London.

Meanwhile, the regions least impacted by measles include the South East and the South West, with 25 and 19 confirmed cases. Of the confirmed cases, 62 per cent of all infections were in children under the age of 10, but cases are also being reported in adults, with 21 per cent in people over 20-years-old.

The key symptoms of measles include a high fever, coughing, sneezing, red and sore watery eyes, and a rash that usually appears after the initial symptoms. The UKHSA has not released data showing the specific locations where outbreaks have been confirmed, however, it is possible to map notifications of measles.

These are the alerts that GPs are required to send to the UKHSA every time they diagnose a case of what they believe to be measles. Since January 2024 there have been more than 5,000 notifications of possible measles cases in England.

However, these cases have not been confirmed in a laboratory, but they do show suspected infections in council areas and can provide an early warning of possible outbreaks. They show that GPs in Birmingham have seen more suspected cases than anywhere else, with 352 so far this year, including 12 in the latest week. Whereas Manchester has 123 and Leicester has 119.

You can see the suspected cases where you live using our interactive map. The spread of Measles is being blamed on the low take-up of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in parts of the country.

In England, 92.5 per cent of children had received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of five in 2022-23, which is down from 93.4 per cent the previous year and below the national target of 95.5 per cent.

The vaccine uptake is also much lower in certain areas, such as in Birmingham the amount is 88.1 per cent. Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist, said: “Measles cases have been rising across the country in recent weeks, particularly in London.

"Measles is extremely infectious, and outbreaks can spread very rapidly through communities like schools and nurseries, especially if those communities have low vaccination rates. The MMR jab offers the best protection against measles. Measles is preventable but we know some communities, especially in London, have very low MMR vaccination rates.

"That means many thousands of children around the country are still not fully vaccinated and may be at risk of serious illness which can lead to life-long complications or even death." She continued: "Parents should check their child’s Red Book now to ensure that children are up to date with the MMR and other routine vaccines.

"If you’re unsure, contact your GP practice to check. Your GP can offer the vaccinations your child needs to bring them up to date. If the NHS contacts you about catching up on missed vaccines, please respond as soon as possible.”