The Measles Resurgence: Understanding the Outbreaks and Importance of Vaccination


In recent years, measles, once thought to be a disease of the past, has made a troubling comeback. Despite the availability of a highly effective vaccine, measles outbreaks have surged in various parts of the world. This resurgence has raised significant concerns among public health officials and reignited debates about vaccination policies. In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons behind the resurgence of measles, the dangers it poses, and why vaccination remains the most effective tool in combating this infectious disease.


Understanding Measles:  Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the measles virus. It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can survive in the air and on surfaces for several hours, making it incredibly easy to contract. Symptoms of measles typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and a characteristic red rash that spreads across the body.


The Resurgence of Measles: Despite significant progress in controlling measles through vaccination programs, the disease has experienced a resurgence in recent years which poses a significant threat to public health across the UK and globally. 


Several factors contribute to this resurgence:

Vaccine Hesitancy: Misinformation and scepticism surrounding vaccines have led to a decline in vaccination rates in some communities. This hesitancy, fuelled by myths about vaccine safety and efficacy, leaves populations vulnerable to measles outbreaks.


Global Travel: Measles can easily spread across borders due to international travel. Unvaccinated individuals traveling to regions where measles is endemic can contract the virus and bring it back to their communities, sparking outbreaks.


Waning Immunity: In some cases, immunity conferred by the measles vaccine may wane over time. This leaves previously vaccinated individuals susceptible to infection, particularly in settings where measles is circulating.


Incomplete Immunisation Schedules: Some individuals may not have received the recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine, leaving them susceptible to infection. Ensuring individuals are offered vaccination and opportunities to catch up is vital

Measles Rash
Measles Rash

The Dangers of Measles: Measles is not a benign childhood illness. It can lead to severe complications, especially in vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Complications of measles may include pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), blindness, and even death. The risks associated with measles underscore the importance of preventing its spread through vaccination.

The Importance of Vaccination: Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing measles and its complications. The measles vaccine, usually administered as part of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, is safe, highly effective, and has been used for decades to control measles outbreaks. By achieving high vaccination coverage rates, communities can establish herd immunity, protecting those who are unable to receive the vaccine due to medical reasons.

How effective is the vaccine?
A single dose of measles-containing vaccine is at least 95% effective in preventing measles cases, a second dose will provide immunity to those who did not respond to the first. Over the last twenty years vaccination has dramatically reduced the number of deaths from measles.  


Reviewing Vaccination History and offering Catch up Vaccines:  We can help to identify individuals who may be under-immunised or due for booster and schedule catch-up vaccinations to ensure complete protection. In some areas of the UK where outbreaks have occurred or with known low-immunisation rates, targeted catch up programmes have been running to try to boost population immunity.


Those working either within primary care settings or travel health clinics, are key to identifying at risk individuals. Travel is a great opportunity to ensure that individuals are up to date. People are coming to us to ask our advice, find out about prevalent diseases and their risks and how they can protect themselves – it’s crucial that measles is not neglected in this discussion.


Remember: you are never to old to vaccinate against measles. In the travel clinic where I work, a large majority of people when asked if they have had the MMR vaccine will answer yes, even though many were born in a time when it was not routinely given. A lot of people just assume they have had it.


The resurgence of measles serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of vaccination in safeguarding public health. Efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy, improve access to vaccines, and strengthen immunization programs are essential in preventing future outbreaks. By working together to promote vaccination and educate the public about the risks of measles, we can strive to eliminate this preventable disease and protect the health and well-being of individuals worldwide.

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Dovetail Team


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