Measles Outbreak Information

You will have seen in the press over the past few weeks that there has been a Measles outbreak in Wales. This advice sheet will give you some information on whether you need to seek further advice on immunisation from your GP.

Why is it so important to be vaccinated against measles?

Measles isn’t trivial. It’s a very infectious, nasty illness which, in rare cases, can be fatal. About one in five children with measles experiences
complications such as ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, pneumonia, meningitis, and eye disorders. One in 10 children with measles ends up in the hospital. There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the only way of preventing it.

Can adults catch measles?

Yes, and adults are likely to be more ill than children and for longer.
Someone with measles generally has to spend five days in bed and be off work for 10 days. Adults are also more prone to measles complications than children.

We live a long way from Wales, so should I be worried?

Outbreaks of measles can happen anywhere at any time, so wherever you live in the UK it’s important that your children are up-to-date with their MMR and other childhood vaccinations. If your child has already had two doses of MMR vaccine, you don’t need to worry. However, if they’ve only had one dose, or have not been vaccinated at all, they really should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

What if I’m going close to an area with an outbreak?

If you have plans to travel to the outbreak areas, make immediate
arrangements with your GP for your children to receive the MMR vaccination if they haven’t had both doses before. Babies aged six to 12 months can also be vaccinated and children aged up to three can have their second MMR jab a month after the first.

Can my children still have the MMR vaccination if they weren’t vaccinated as babies?

Safety of the MMR jab

The report that came out in the late 1990s suggesting a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease has since been completely discredited.

There is no evidence that MMR can make a child chronically ill. It is a
very safe and effective vaccination.

Yes, it’s never too late for your children (or yourself) to ‘catch up’ with MMR vaccination if they missed it earlier. Children up to the age of
18 and adults without immunity should have a catch-up MMR vaccination.

I’m not sure if my kids are already vaccinated. How do I find out?

MMR vaccination is usually given as a first dose around the age of 13
months and then again as a ‘booster’ jab before school at age three to five. If your child has already had the vaccine it should be recorded in their medical notes and in their personal health record (the `Red Book`). Ask your GP or practice manager if you’re not sure.

What do I do if my GP isn’t sure if my family has been vaccinated?

If you or your GP are unsure whether your children have been vaccinated against measles before, then go ahead and arrange to have your kids vaccinated again. It won’t hurt them to have the MMR vaccination a second or third time.

Will I have to pay for the MMR vaccination?

No, MMR vaccination is available to adults and children free on the NHS.

Can you still get measles after the MMR vaccination?

It’s extremely unlikely, but you need two doses of MMR to be fully
protected. The first dose of the MMR jab gives 90% protection and the second dose tops this up to 99% protection. Almost all of the children in Wales who have caught measles were either completely unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

How do I arrange vaccination?

Simply call your local GP practice and make an appointment for an MMR jab. It involves two doses which can be given just a month apart to protect as quickly as possible. If you aren’t registered with a GP, find the nearest doctor’s surgery who will give your family the jabs.

Can adults have the MMR jab?

It’s not just children who can benefit from MMR vaccination. Adults who
are unsure whether they’ve had measles or been vaccinated, particularly if they’re carers or work with children, can have the MMR vaccine on the NHS from their GP. Bear in mind that most adults born before 1970 are likely to be immune because they have probably been exposed to measles already.

The decision of whether to vaccinate an adult takes into account past vaccination history, the likelihood of an individual remaining susceptible and the future risk of exposure and disease:

Individuals who were born between 1980 and 1990 may not be protected against mumps but are likely to be vaccinated against measles and rubella. They may never have received a mumps containing vaccine or had only one dose of MMR, and had limited opportunity for exposure to natural mumps. They should be recalled and given MMR vaccine. If this is their first dose, a further dose of MMR should be given from one month later.

Individuals born between 1970 and 1979 may have been vaccinated against measles and many will have been exposed to mumps and rubella during childhood. However, this age group should be offered
MMR wherever feasible, particularly if they are considered to be at high risk of exposure. Where such adults are being vaccinated because they have been demonstrated to be susceptible to at least one of the vaccine components, then either two doses should be given, or there should be evidence of seroconversion to the relevant antigen.

Individuals born before 1970 are likely to have had all three
natural infections and are less likely to be susceptible. MMR vaccine should be offered to such individuals on request or if they are considered to be at high risk of exposure. Where such adults are being vaccinated because they have been demonstrated to be susceptible to at least one of the vaccine components, then either two doses should be given or there should be evidence of seroconversion to the relevant antigen.

Individuals with unknown or incomplete vaccination histories

Individuals coming from developing countries will probably have received a measles-containing vaccine in their country of origin but may not have received mumps or rubella vaccines.  Unless there is a reliable history of appropriate immunisation, individuals should be assumed to be unimmunised and the recommendations above should be followed.

Contraindications to MMR are few, but it should not be given to

  • Those who are immunosuppresed
  • Those with a confirmed previous
    anaphylactic reaction to either mumps, measles or rubella containing vaccines,
    or to neomycin or gelatin.
  • Pregnant women.

Egg allergy is not a contraindication, but advice should be sought if there is a history of egg induced anaphylaxis.


NHS Choices

Immunisation against infections: The Green Book (2006) Department of Health

All information has been taken from the above, please contact your GP surgery for further information.


As Occupational Health providers, we help ensure that you and your employees are compliant with our health surveillance and safety critical medicals.

Call us today and take the first step to a safer work environment.