Health officials are warning festival-goers that they might be at risk of contracting measles this summer due to the number of cases rising globally and a fall in UK vaccination rates.
An ongoing measles outbreak saw cases hit a decade high last year in Europe and have continued to rise even more in the first three months of 2019. Highly infectious, the virus can lead to life-threatening complications, including pneumonia and swelling of the brain, which in turn can cause deafness or neurological damage.
Discussing the potential risks of measles with festival organisers, Public Health England officials are urging anyone unsure of their immunisation status to contact their GP.
“Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch up,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, Public Health England’s Head of Immunisations. “We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before heading to large gatherings such as festivals, as well as those travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks or before starting university.”
Gatherings of young people, like festivals, are a prime opportunity for the virus to spread to those who are unprotected, due to missed vaccinations being a particular risk in 15-to-25-year-olds. This is because they were born during a time when UK vaccination rates crashed in the wake of a 1998 study, which claimed the MMR vaccine caused autism – this has since been discredited and retracted.
If you are unsure of whether or not you have been vaccinated, please contact you GP.