Measles on the rise as Leicester in top 3 for suspected infections in England

A child with measles
A child with measles -Credit:Getty

The measles emergency is a growing threat with Leicester in the top three areas for suspected infections in England. While the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has not released information showing the specific locations where outbreaks have been confirmed, it is possible to map notifications of measles. These are 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, there have been over 5,000 notifications of possible measles cases in England. While these cases have not been confirmed in a laboratory, they show suspected infections in council areas and can provide an early warning of possible outbreaks.

Dr Vanessa MacGregor, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for UKHSA East Midlands, said numbers of measles cases are rising across the country, including Leicester. She said they were aware some communities have very low measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rates. The MMR jab offers the best protection against measles, she added.

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GPs in Leicester are shown to be in the top three areas to have seen suspected cases with 119 this year, below Birmingham with 352 and Manchester with 123. Wandsworth with 95 suspected cases, and Coventry with 91, are the fourth and fifth highest suspected cases.

You can see the suspected cases where you live using our interactive map.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that more than 1,000 cases of measles have been confirmed by lab-tests in England in 2024. That figure is more than triple the 362 cases seen all last year and the biggest outbreak in more than a decade.

The latest outbreak is thought to have started last October in Birmingham. Since then 580 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands. But there have been clusters of infections in every region of England.

Some 390 cases have been confirmed in London since the outbreak began, 130 in the East Midlands, 69 in Yorkshire and the Humber, 64 in the North West, 49 in the East of England and 48 in the North East.

The South East, with 25 confirmed cases, and the South West, with 19, are the regions least affected by measles.

Six in 10 of all infections - 62 per cent - were in children under the age of 10, but cases are also being reported in adults, with one in five cases - 21 per cent - in people over the age of 20.

The UKHSA blames the spread on low take-up of the measles, mumps and rubella MMR 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, down from 93.4 per cent the previous year and below the national target of 95.5 per cent.

Dr MacGregor said: “Numbers of measles cases are rising across the country, including Leicester. We know some communities have very low MMR vaccination rates. Measles is extremely infectious, and it only takes one case to get into these communities for this disease to spread rapidly, especially in schools and nurseries.

“The MMR jab offers the best protection against measles. Measles is preventable but many thousands of children around the country are still not fully vaccinated and may be at risk of serious illness or life-long complications. No parent wants this for their child.

“Parents should check their child’s Red Book now to ensure their 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.”

Measles signs and symptoms

The initial symptoms of measles usually develop around 10 days after a person is infected but they can show up anywhere between 7 to 21 days. These can includecold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose; sneezing; cough; sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light and a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F).

A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body. Symptoms usually resolve in about 7 to 10 days.


A number of pop-up vaccination clinics are being held across Leicestershire in the coming weeks offering the MMR vaccine.

Further information including dates, times and locations can be found online at NHS Vaccinations - LLR ICB.