HEALTH professionals are urging parents to check their children are vaccinated against measles after a rise in the number of cases in recent years.

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A national immunisation catch-up programme has been announced by the Government to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers.

Experts believe the rise in measles can be mostly attributed to the number of unprotected 10-16 year olds who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the link between autism and the vaccine was widespread.

After many years of low vaccination uptake measles became re-established in 2007.

New figures published today by Public Health England show high numbers of confirmed measles cases in England in the first three months of 2013, reaching 587 by the end of March.

This follows a record annual high of almost 2,000 cases in 2012.

In line with trends across the country, the number of cases of measles has continued to rise in Cambridgeshire.

During the first three months of this year 20 cases were confirmed compared to a total of 17 cases in the whole of 2012.

The catch-up programme announced today sets out a national framework for vaccinating 10-16 year olds through GP surgeries or school programmes.

Dr Gina Radford, Anglia and Essex Public Health England Centre Director, said: “Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so it is very disappointing that cases have recently increased in Cambridgeshire.

“We would advise those who have not been vaccinated to seek at least one dose of MMR vaccination which will give them 95 per cent protection against measles. A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection.

“Measles is not a mild illness - it is unpleasant and can lead to serious complications as we have seen with more than 100 children in England being hospitalised so far this year.

“It is never too late to get vaccinated against measles. We would urge parents of unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults who have missed out on MMR to arrange to be vaccinated by their GP. If you are unsure whether you or your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to your GP who will have a record.”

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