Health Protection Agency fears student measles outbreak

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

image captionThe HPA says measles can be fatal and is urging students to get vaccinated

Students are being urged to make sure they have been vaccinated against measles, as health experts fear an outbreak of the disease.

Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) shows the number of confirmed cases so far this year is already more than double the total number for 2010.

By the end of July this year, there were 777 confirmed cases, compared with 374 cases for the whole of last year.

GP practices in university towns and cities have been alerted.

The HPA fears outbreaks are likely as students return to university campuses at the start of the new term, with the majority of cases so far being among children or young adults under the age of 25.

The organisation said these cases have been associated with small clusters in universities and schools, with many of the patients unvaccinated.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the immunisation department at the HPA, said: "Measles and meningitis are infections that can both be fatal, it is absolutely vital that all students ensure they are completely up to date with all their vaccinations, especially the MMR and Men C vaccine.

"University bars and campuses where lots of students are in close proximity is an ideal place for bacteria and viruses to spread which is why we may see more outbreaks of these infections in this environment.

"The MMR will protect against measles, mumps and rubella - all serious infections that can lead to many complications."

The HPA is an independent organisation, set up by the government in 2003, to protect the public from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

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