PARENTS are being warned to immunise their children as a UK-wide measles epidemic has reached South Tyneside.
Three children at St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive School in Mill Lane, Hebburn, plus one other child in the borough, have caught the virus.
The country was hit with record numbers of people taking ill since the epidemic broke out last September – but until this month the borough had remained measles free.
Youngsters have now been sent home with letters from Amanda Healy, director of public health for South Tyneside, urging their parents to ensure their children are inoculated.
She said: “Measles is highly infectious, and unvaccinated children and adults who haven’t had it before are at risk.
“We have four confirmed cases and local GPs are inviting unvaccinated children between the ages of 10 and 19 to have jabs.”
The outbreak was first noticed last year, after 2,000 cases – the highest figure for nearly two decades – were reported.
While the numbers have yet to be released for June, there were 288 new cases in England last month – the most recorded in a four-week period.
There have been 962 people infected in the first four months of the year – more than half of those were from Teesside and Greater Manchester.
To prevent measles spreading, parents are encouraged to check that their child is up to date with their MMR vaccines and, if not, they should arrange to have the vaccine at their GP surgery as soon as possible.
To have the best protection against measles, two doses of the MMR vaccine are required. Those who aren’t sure if their child had both jabs, should again check with their GP.
Any child who has measles should stay off school until four full days after the start of the rash.
Bosses at Public Health South Tyneside are now working closely with the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group – which represents the borough’s GP surgeries – to call in any unvaccinated children and young people.