The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) noted a significant increase in measles infections in England in 2023. The most recent figures show 60 new cases of measles were confirmed in the last week, bringing the total number of positive infections since October 1 up to 581.

Tests have been carried out to confirm each is, in fact, measles as some symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses. There were 17 positive test results in October, 42 in November, 159 in December, 266 last month, and 97 in the first two weeks of February.

While UKHSA says the curve in the West Midlands “appears to be stabilising”, it has expressed concern for London, the North West and, to a lesser extent, the East Midlands.

Of the cases in the past four weeks, 14 percent were recorded in London, 14 percent were in the North West and 11 percent in the East Midlands.

Top three areas for measles: 

  • West Midlands
  • London 
  • North West’s interactive map below shows confirmed cases of measles in England.

The majority of cases seen so far (65 percent) have been in children under the age of 10, but around a quarter (27 percent) were in young people and adults over the age of 15.

The UKHSA blames the spread on low take-up of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in parts of the country. In England as a whole, 92.5 percent of children had received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the age of five in 2022-23, down from 93.4 percent the previous year and below the national target of 95.5 percent.

But in some areas the vaccine uptake is much lower. For example, more than one in 10 children in Birmingham, the area with the most cases, had not been vaccinated (88.1 percent).

Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist, said: “As expected, due to worryingly low MMR vaccine uptake in some areas across the country, we are now starting to see clusters of cases in other regions. We’re urging parents to protect their children from this serious illness with the MMR vaccine before it spreads further.

“Parents are already coming forward to take up the offer of the MMR vaccine for their children, but hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated children are at risk of serious illness or life-long complications. The disease spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in schools and nurseries, however measles is completely preventable with vaccination.

“Parents should check their child’s Red Book now to ensure that children are fully up to date with both their MMR jabs and all their routine vaccines. Get in touch with your GP practice to catch up on any that have been missed, or if you’re unsure. Respond as soon as possible if the NHS is in touch for your child to catch up.”

The UKHSA also publishes weekly updates showing the number of statutory notices of suspected cases of measles it has received from doctors. GPs are required to inform the UKHSA when they see a possible case of any of a number of infectious diseases, including measles.

While these cases have not been confirmed in a laboratory, they show suspected infections in council areas and can provide an early warning of possible outbreaks. So far this year the UKHSA has received 1,728 notifications of suspected cases of measles – well over 10 times as many as it received in the same period of 2023 (111) and 2022 (81).

As with lab-confirmed cases, the majority have been in the West Midlands – particularly in Birmingham, where there have been 183 suspected cases so far this year, including 17 in the last week. But cases have been rising in Leicester – with 13 possible infections seen by GPs in the last week – Manchester (12), Wigan (11), Rochdale (10) and Liverpool (seven). Manchester now has the second-highest number of suspected cases seen so far this year (50), followed by Leicester (40), Coventry (39), and Dudley (33).

The map below shows suspected measles cases in 2024.

Measles symptoms

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.

You should ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you think you or your child may have measles.

Don’t go to the GP or any other healthcare setting without calling ahead first.

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