Unvaccinated children in the West Midlands are being forced to isolate for up to three weeks amid the region’s biggest measles outbreak since the 1990s.

More than 300 cases have been identified since October, leading to 50 children being admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for treatment in the past month.

Health chiefs, who have already declared a ‘national incident’, blamed low uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

They urged parents to check their kids have had both doses of the jab, or risk them becoming seriously ill from the virus and passing it on to others.

Unvaccinated children who have been in contact with an infected person are being forced to stay at home for up to three weeks in a bid to contain the virus. 

MailOnline has today created an interactive map that reveals the number of cases detected in each local authority across England Wales in December. 

Latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows there were 1,603 suspected measles cases in England and Wales in 2023. The figure is more than twice as high as the 735 logged in 2022 and an almost five-fold rise compared to the 360 cases reported in 2021

Latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows there were 1,603 suspected measles cases in England and Wales in 2023. The figure is more than twice as high as the 735 logged in 2022 and an almost five-fold rise compared to the 360 cases reported in 2021

More than 300 cases have been identified since October. Birmingham Children¿s Hospital (pictured) has also seen 50 children needing treatment for the virus in the last month

More than 300 cases have been identified since October. Birmingham Children’s Hospital (pictured) has also seen 50 children needing treatment for the virus in the last month

In a letter to parents, Birmingham City Council warned that pupils who have not had the vaccine — given to children aged one, followed by a second dose at three years and four months — will be told to isolate for 21 days if they are exposed to measles.

The warning, posted on January 4 as children returned to classrooms, stated: ‘Anyone unvaccinated who is exposed to someone with measles may be advised to isolate for three weeks. 

‘This would disrupt their learning or work and could happen repeatedly.’

The letter, sent by the council’s assistant director for public health, Dr Mary Orhewere, noted that GPs can dish out catch-up doses of the MMR jab, which offers life-long immunity against the three viruses it protects against. 

WHAT JABS SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY AGE 18?

Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.

Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:

Eight weeks old

  • 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Rotavirus
  • Meningitis B 

12 weeks old

  • Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus 

16 weeks old

  • Third dose of 6-in-1
  • Second doses of PCV and men. B 

One year old 

  • Hib/meningitis C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Third dose of PCV and meningitis B 

Two to eight years old

  • Annual children’s flu vaccine

Three years, four months old

  • Second dose of MMR
  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough

12-13 years old (girls)

  • HPV (two doses within a year)

14 years old

  • 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • MenACWY  

 Source: NHS Choices

Two doses offer up to 99 per cent protection against measles, mumps and rubella, which can lead to meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy. 

Additionally, catch-up vaccination clinics for parents, staff and pupils will be held in schools across the West Midlands. 

The three-week isolation advice was first issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in 2019.

But worries about low uptake and a surge in cases prompted councils, including some in London, to distribute a reminder about the policy in recent months.

Under the guidance, children are banned from school and told not to mix with other children and those considered vulnerable — babies, pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed. But they can still leave their homes for other activities.

Health chiefs say that while it is disruptive, the three-week isolation prevents measles from taking off among children — which could see more become seriously unwell.

Measles is so infectious that nine in ten unjabbed children in a classroom will catch it if just one classmate has the virus. 

The UKHSA said it issues the advice on a ‘case-by-case’ basis after talks between council officials and schools. 

It said: ‘There have been children who have had to stay off school because of being a contact with a person with measles and being unvaccinated. 

‘If they have had one dose they can stay in school, but if they have had neither they are asked to stay off.’

It comes after Dr Naveed Syed, a consultant in communicable disease control at the UKHSA, based in the West Midlands, yesterday warned he was seeing ‘cases of measles rising every day’.

He added: ‘Uptake of MMR in the ­region is much lower than needed to protect the population, which is giving this serious disease a chance to get a foothold in our communities.’

At least 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks, under public health guidance.

But nationally, the proportion of five-year-olds who are fully jabbed has fallen to 84.5 per cent — the lowest in more than a decade. The trend has partly been blamed on the rise of anti-vaxx beliefs.

Experts, however, have also pointed to the pandemic which led some children to miss out on routine vaccinations, as well as rising pressures on primary care and a reduction in health visitors. 

UKHSA data shows there were 1,603 suspected measles cases in England and Wales in 2023.

The figure is more than twice as high as the 735 logged in 2022 and an almost five-fold rise compared to the 360 cases reported in 2021. 

The suspected cases are based on official notifications by doctors making a diagnosis from clinical symptoms. 

While not all are later confirmed to be measles by laboratory tests, health chiefs warn that levels are clearly rising. 

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

Latest NHS Digital also shows that up to four in ten children in parts of England haven’t had both MMR jabs by the time they turn five.

Just 56.3 per cent of youngsters that age in Hackney, east London, were fully-protected against measles, mumps and rubella in 2022/23.

After Hackney came Camden (63.6 per cent) and Enfield (64.8 per cent).

Outside of London, the lowest uptake rates for both doses among five year olds were logged in Liverpool (73.6 per cent), Manchester (74.5 per cent) and Birmingham (75.1 per cent).

Measles, which mostly produces flu like symptoms and a rash, can cause very serious and even fatal health complications if it spreads to the lungs or the brain. 

One in five children who catch measles will need to go to hospital, with one in 15 developing serious complications like meningitis or sepsis.

Uptake of the MMR jab collapsed in the wake of study by the now discredited medic Andrew Wakefield which falsely linked the jabs to autism.

MMR uptake in England was about 91 per cent prior to Wakefield’s study being published but plummeted to 80 per cent in the aftermath.

IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?

In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.

He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.

After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’

At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.

Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004, the editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.

The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.

Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practising medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.

On January 6, 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.

At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.

Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.

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