PUBLIC health doctors in Devon are warning parents that failing to vaccinate their children with the triple measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could leave them exposed following an outbreak in the north of the county.
Measles is currently circulating in primary schools in North Devon with Park Community School having a confirmed case and a further eight suspected cases.
Another two suspected cases are being monitored at Yeo Valley Primary School and Braunton Academy.
Doctors have sent parents letters via the schools, advising immunisation as the most effective way of reducing their risk of contracting the disease.
Dr Virginia Pearson, director of public health for Devon, said, “We know that the measles virus is circulating in North Devon and so far the people affected have not been immunised or only partially immunised with the MMR vaccine.
“Measles can spread quickly and easily, especially in close knit communities such as schools and community facilities which is why it is so important that children are properly immunised.”
Dr. Mark Kealy, of health protection agency south west added: “Measles is potentially a very serious illness which can be fatal in certain groups with suppressed immunity, such as newborn babies, pregnant women, people with leukaemia, HIV/AIDS or patients on cancer and organ transplant drugs.”
“By getting your children immunised you will protect them and other more vulnerable people in the community who could become seriously ill if they catch the disease.
“Measles should not be taken lightly, as you can never tell when you have passed it on to someone in whom it would cause serious, maybe fatal, disease.
“It is never too late to get your child vaccinated. If they've missed out on MMR in the past it's always possible for them to catch-up - just contact your GP.”
Parents are being advised to keep their children away from school and people who may be susceptible to infection for at least five after the first signs of the illness begin to appear.
It is also important not to visit a GP practice with a child who has measles but to telephone ahead in the first instance to minimise the risk of spreading the infection.
For more information about measles, visit the Health Protection Agency website - www.hpa.org.uk - or the NHS immunisation website at www.immunisation.nhs.uk/vaccines/MMR for details about getting vaccinated.