England and Wales have recorded 696 cases of Measles in January, February and March 2018, up from 379 cases in the entire of 2017 and 366 in 2016. The city of Birmingham has been the worst hit, with 42 reported cases so far this year, up from seven in the whole of 2017. Cardiff has recorded 27 cases so far this year, Leeds 25, Cheshire West and Chester 18, and the London boroughs of Bromley and Westminster 15 each. The rise in cases has been linked to an epidemic that has been sweeping Europe, with 21 315 cases reported across the continent in 2017, including 35 fatalities, more than four times as many as in 2016. This in turn is thought to be related to a fall off in people being vaccinated against the disease, apparently having been put off by hoax stories circulating on the Internet, which claim vaccinations cause autism and other problems.
Child infected with Measles. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles is a Viral Disease, that presents as a fever combined with a cough and inflamed eyes, followed by the development of a rash first in the mouth and then across the body. About 30% of cases go on to develop complications, which can include diarrhoea, blindness, inflammation of the brain and pneumonia, and the disease can be fatal. Measles is a highly infectious airborne disease spread by coughing, with un-immunised people living in close proximity to infected persons having an approximately 90% chance of catching the Virus. The disease is easily prevented by vaccination, but hard to treat once people are infected, with small children, who are least likely to have been immunised, particularly vulnerable. This makes it particularly important for health workers to be alert for new cases once the disease becomes established in an area, and ensure that all potential cases are screened for the Virus promptly.
Thin-section transmission electron micrograph of a Measles Virus.
Measles is caused by a single-strand RNA Virus belonging to the genus Morbillivirus, which also includes the Viruses that cause Canine Distemper and Rinderpest, as well as a variety of other diseases infecting domestic and wild Mammals. The genius Morbillivirus is in turn a member of the Paramyxoviridae, a group of Viruses that infect a wide range of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Fish, and includes the Virus that causes Mumps in Humans.
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