Teachers urged to protect themselves from measles

5th June 2009 at 01:00

Teachers are at risk of becoming victims of increasingly large measles outbreaks across the country, according to experts.

The number of cases of the infectious disease has risen from almost zero in January 2007 to 130 at the end of last year.

Health officials, worried about the spread of measles, are urging school staff to ensure they have had the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) jab.

Wales, which has been particularly affected by outbreaks, could become the only part of the UK to make inoculation an entry requirement for children starting school.

But both the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Health say there are no similar plans for England.

Sir Sandy Macara, former chair of the British Medical Association, will tell doctors at a conference later this month that all children should be given the MMR jab before they are allowed to start school.

Outbreaks are thought to be increasing because the children starting school now were due for their first jabs at the height of the controversy over whether the vaccine triggered autism.

The findings, published in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield, have since been discredited.

Dr Rosemary McCann, the Health Protection Agency's immunisation lead for the North West, said teachers were increasingly consulting doctors about their risk of developing measles.

"It is very important that young teachers in particular, who might not have had the MMR because of their age, should make sure they get inoculated, and we offer this when we go into schools," she said.

Around 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated for outbreaks to be prevented. At present, the UK is about 7 per cent below this target. In some areas with particularly low take-up of the jab, it could be up to 20 per cent down.

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