People are being encouraged to have an MMR vaccine following an outbreak of measles in the UK.

According to the most recent government data on MMR, there have been 149 confirmed cases across England, with London making up more than half of those cases.

Leicester became the latest city to confirm a spike in cases this week following the diagnosis of a school pupil and a university student.

Earlier this week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that while the risk of a UK-wide measles epidemic was considered low, an outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in London alone, because of low uptake in the MMR vaccine.

Cambs Times: A warning has been issued over the falling number of children receiving their routine jabs, which protect from illnesses including meningitis, measles and hepatitis BA warning has been issued over the falling number of children receiving their routine jabs, which protect from illnesses including meningitis, measles and hepatitis B (Image: Getty/bymuratdeniz)

A similar warning was issued by the UKHSA earlier this year, following an outbreak in July.

At that time, UKHSA health protection consultant Dr William Proto said: “Measles is a very infectious virus and can spread rapidly among communities, such as schools, if people have not had at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.

“While most people will recover completely within a couple of weeks, the virus can cause very serious illness.

“It can sometimes leave permanent disability and it can even be fatal. People in certain at-risk groups, including babies and small children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity are at increased risk of complications if they catch measles.

“All of the cases have been in unvaccinated children. UKHSA has advised the school and nursery that anybody who has not had at least one dose of MMR and has been in contact with a case of measles should be excluded for 21 days because it can take up to 21 days for a measles infection to develop and a person carrying the virus may still infect others while asymptomatic.

"We have been working with local authority and NHS partners to encourage uptake of the MMR vaccine. MMR is a highly effective and safe vaccine.

“Children should receive two doses of MMR for maximum protection. The vaccine not only protects them, but also limits the chances of the virus spreading more widely, for example to children who are too young to have the vaccine and to adults who may be more vulnerable to the disease.”

Measles symptoms to look out for

The earliest signs of measles infection include:

  • high fever
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • red and watery eyes
  • koplik spots (small red spots with bluish-white centres) inside the mouth

After several days, a rash appears, usually on the face and upper neck.

The rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet and lasts 5 to 6 days before fading.

Measles is commonly confused with other infections that can lead to a rash.

Treatment for measles

There is no specific treatment for measles, and most mild cases will be recommended rest to recover from the illness.

Government guidance says: “Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment (such as hydration and antipyretics).

“Secondary bacterial infections should be treated with antibiotics. All suspected cases should be confirmed, ideally by testing of oral fluid (saliva), but management will often have to be based on a clinical and epidemiological risk assessment of the likelihood of the case being true measles.”