PARENTS are being urged to make sure their children receive the MMR vaccination as Public Health Wales investigates an outbreak of measles in South West Wales.
Twelve cases of probable measles and four confirmed cases have been diagnosed in individuals living in Swansea, Port Talbot and Haverfordwest. Two individuals have been hospitalised but have since been discharged.
The cases are believed to be associated with people who stayed at a holiday camp in South West England during the second half of October. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in South West England is working closely with the holiday camp to investigate.
Letters are being sent to five schools in the affected areas advising them that measles is circulating.
A vaccination catch up session is also being arranged for all unimmunised pupils at Pentrehafod Comprehensive School, Swansea.
Parents of pupils at other affected schools are being asked to ensure that children aged between one and 16 who have not received two doses of the MMR vaccine should contact their GP to arrange vaccination.
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: "Measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause complications including pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis, particularly in children under five years of age, those with weakened immune systems and children with a poor diet. It can even be fatal in rare cases.
"Many people who catch measles will have a fever, cough, red eyes, and blocked nose and feel generally unwell. The blotchy rash appears a few days later beginning on the face and spreading downwards to the rest of the body over several days. Typically, people will be infectious from a few days before the onset of their rash until four to five days after the onset of the rash. "Most people make a full recovery but there is a rare possibility of severe complications including serious eye disorders, deafness, brain damage and even death. "If your child is unwell and you suspect it is measles you should contact your GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47. Your child should not attend school or nursery for five days after the rash starts.
"Measles can be prevented by use of the safe and highly effective measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. "Parents can easily protect their children by having them immunised with the MMR vaccine. After completing a two-dose course of MMR, 99 per cent of children will be protected against measles."
Children should receive their first dose of the vaccine at 12-13 months of age and the second dose at around three years and four months of age.
Arrangements have been made with GPs in the affected areas to ensure that the likely increase in demand for MMR can be met.
Dr Hoffmann continued: "Most of the cases under investigation could have been prevented by MMR vaccine.
"The only way to prevent outbreaks of measles is to ensure that at least 95 per cent of children in Wales have received two doses of the MMR vaccine.
"Although more children are having the vaccine now, we still have some way to go before we can guarantee the safety of children in Wales from measles."