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Your guide to measles as cases reported in Wales; An outbreak of measles has hit Cardiff, Newport and Blaenau Gwent in the last week. Here, we look at the key signs and symptoms of the infection and how best to avoid it.

Cases of measles rocketed by 300% across Europe last year, as some parents refused to vaccinate their children.

According to new figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), this led to 20,000 people becoming infected, and 35 deaths.

And last week Public Health Wales confirmed that six people have been confirmed as having measles in south east Wales, with two further "probable" cases also under investigation.

Although cases are distributed across the region, the first few cases are thought to have been exposed to an "unknown highly infectious case" in early February in Cardiff city centre.

The viral illness was all but eradicated in Britain before the late 1990s, when the now-discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield wrongly claimed the measles, mumps and rubella jab was linked to autism.

In turn, this led to some parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, leaving them at risk of catching it.

In 2017, there were 282 reported cases of measles in the UK - all caused by people arriving from affected countries - and so far this year there has been 36.

So what is measles, how can you catch it and is it treatable? Here is everything you need to know: | WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you're infected, according to the NHS.

These are the ones to watch out for: | cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough | sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light | a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40deg C (104deg F) | small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks | loss of appetite | tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

The measles rash appears around two to four days after the initial symptoms and normally fades after about a week.

You'll usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.

According to the NHS, the rash: | is slightly itchy for some people | can look similar to other childhood conditions, such as slapped cheek syndrome, roseola or rubella | is unlikely to be caused by measles if the person has been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or had measles before | WHAT IS THE MMR VACCINE? The MMR vaccination is a combined treatment which protects against measles, mumps and rubella and is available to all adults and children who have not completed the course.

The full course requires two doses.

Children should be given the MMR vaccine when they are 12 months old. They will have the second injection before starting school.

If you or your child have not been vaccinated it is not too late, and doctors are urging anyone who has never had the jab to get themselves vaccinated.

If you're not sure about your vaccination status, check with your GP.

| IS THERE A TREATMENT FOR MEASLES? There is no specific treatment, but the body's immune system should be able to fight off the illness within a couple of weeks.

However, in severe cases hospital admission may be required.

The NHS recommends paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains.

You should also drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and stay off school or work for four days after the rash appears.

| HOW CAN I PREVENT IT? The most effective way is the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. To prevent a measles outbreak doctors recommend that at least 95% of the population is immunised.

Some 91.9% of UK children were vaccinated against measles between 2015 and 2016, compared to 94.2% the year before.

The World Health Organisation had said people's complacency and fear of vaccines means young children in particular are more susceptible to infection.

| WHAT DOES PUBLIC HEALTH WALES SAY ABOUT THIS LATEST OUTBREAK? Dr Gwen Lowe, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: "Measles is highly infectious and the only way to prevent large outbreaks is through vaccination.

"As this outbreak has shown, even being in the same proximity as a stranger in the first stages of measles can result in infection.

"We urge parents whose children have not received two doses of MMR to ensure that they speak to their GP immediately to arrange this quick, safe and effective vaccine.

"Adults who have never had measles or the MMR vaccine, and who work in close contact with children, are also urged to ensure they speak to their GP about vaccination."

Public Health Wales says children with early measles symptoms - which can include a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes (conjunctivitis) - should be kept home from school.

The NHS trust says it is working in partnership with health boards and local authorities to contact those exposed to measles cases and arranging vaccination as appropriate.

| Parents who fear their child has measles should contact their GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47, and alert them of the symptoms before attending any appointment.

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The most effective way is the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 14, 2018
Words:859
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