Measles – Important information for students

In response to the recent measles outbreak in South Wales Public Health Wales is urging children and YOUNG ADULTS across Wales to act to protect themselves from a disease that can potentially be fatal.

Up until 15th April 2013, 700 cases were reported as confirmed in South Wales, with 73 reported and confirmed in just 2 days.

It is never too late to catch up on your MMR vaccine

What Is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness.

Babies, teenagers and the elderly are at most risk of developing complications from the disease. These can include deafness, meningitis, encephalitis and pneumonia – these are potentially fatal complications!

Ear infections (approx. 1 in 20)
Bronchitis/Pneumonia (approx. 1 in 25)
Convulsions/fits (approx. 1 in 200) and in rare cases
Encephalitis (infection of the brain)
Or meningitis (1 in 1000) may occur

Measles can affect ANYONE who has not developed natural immunity or has not been vaccinated against measles.

What are the symptoms of Measles?

It usually takes a week to 10 days for a person to become unwell after being in contact with measles.  This means that the ‘incubation period’ is on average 10 days.

  • Symptoms can start as high fever, cold-like symptoms, runny nose, sore and runny eyes (which may be sensitive to light) dry ‘croupy’ cough).
  • White spots on the gums (2nd and 3rd day usually).
  • Rash (develops the 3rd and 4th day usually) starting on the face and behind the ears then spreading down the body.  The rash can last for 5–8 days.

How does it spread?

Measles is spread by airborne or droplet transmission so can be spread by coughing or sneezing.  ONE case of measles can infect more than FIFTEEN other people – if those people have not been vaccinated or had measles before and developed their own immunity. It is possible to catch measles from direct contact with articles which have been contaminated by secretions e.g. hankies or tissues.

How do I know if I am immunised or not?

If you are unsure about your immunisation status then you can contact your parents/family to see if they have any records of you being immunised.  If they do not know, your local GP practice should have records that they can print out for you if you ask them.  It is a good idea to bring a copy of this to your local practice in Bangor so we can update your records as well.

If neither your GP practice nor family have definite information on this then your GP practice can contact a local child surveillance unit where records of ALL children immunised in school are held, and they can confirm your immunisation status.

If you are in any doubt, it will not harm you to have the vaccination.

Is the MMR ‘jab’ safe?

Yes, it is. There has been some controversy about whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism, following a study published in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield. He claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease. Since then, however, his work has been discredited and subsequent studies have found no link between the MMR vaccine and bowel disease/autism.

The MMR vaccines given in the UK and their brand names are PRIORIX or MMRVaxPRO.

The MMR vaccine will not exacerbate the symptoms of measles if you have it and you are incubating the disease.

How many injections do I need to have?

The immunisation was introduced in 1988 and formed part of the childhood immunisation schedule been given at 12 months and then between the ages of 3 and 4.  TWO doses should be given for maximum protection.

If you have record of only 1 x MMR then you will need to complete the course and receive a SECOND immunisation.

It is normally a course of 2 injections which can be given a month apart.  The injection is usually given in the upper arm.

What about side-effects… I have important exams soon? Is it best if I wait??

No, ideally you should not wait until after your exams.

The MMR vaccine contains a weakened version of live measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.  The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella.

6–10 days after the first immunisation or MMR some people may develop a mild rash and a mild temperature which will settle after a few days.

Measles is not a pleasant disease and becoming immunised now and for your future time at University should be an important consideration right now.

What should I do if I think I, or someone close to me has measles?

You can contact your GP practice in Bangor/locally and discuss your concerns that day.

You can also contact NHS Direct for advice 0845 4647.

The Out of Hours Service can also offer advice after 6.30 pm, overnight and all day on Bank Holidays and weekends 03001235566.

As measles is HIGHLY contagious it is best to avoid attending A&E unless you feel very unwell and think you may have the complications outlined above. Tell the receptionist as soon as you arrive that you are worried you may have measles so they can provide you with a private room to wait in.

You are infectious with measles before you have symptoms, and for at least 5 days after you develop a rash.

It is important that children are kept off school/nurseries and University students do not attend lectures until at least 5 days after the rash appears.

Our aim is to simply be proactive in pre-empting a possible outbreak at Bangor University. The 2 doses of MMR have always been highly recommended before you start University at Bangor but not compulsory.

NOW is a good opportunity to check this and protect yourself and others close to you.

Please let the nurse know if you are pregnant or immunocompromised in any way as there are restrictions to having the MMR whilst pregnant and immunocompromised (recent transplant for example or suffering from cancer).

If you are pregnant your midwife will also need to know if you have been in touch with someone who has contracted measles as measles can cause miscarriage and harm your unborn baby.

Remember the best way to protect yourself from measles is to have 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. This vaccine is FREE.

Please check your MMR status today and if you are not immunised please make arrangements to protect yourself (and others close to you) it only takes a few minutes.