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01 June 2011 09:27
Overseas travellers are being advised to immunise themselves against measles
Overseas travellers are being advised to take precautions against measles as Britain sees a surge in the number of cases of the disease which has affected several parts of Europe.
According to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), 334 cases of the highly contagious infection were confirmed in England and Wales within the first three months of this year, compared with 374 for the whole of 2010.
Last month the World Health Organisation said more than 6,500 cases have been reported across 33 European nations. In worst-hit France alone nearly 5,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease.
The heightened risk of contracting the infection abroad means holidaymakers would be well advised to get measles jabs and take out
travel insurance cover before setting off.
In England and Wales, the worst affected were those under 25 with the majority of them not having been vaccinated. Localised outbreaks were reported in universities, schools and individual families in the first three months of 2011.
Most cases occurred in London and the South East, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the HPA's immunisation department, said: "Although MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) coverage has improved over the last few years, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and, in some cases, it can be fatal.
"Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily. Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad, it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised."
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