A SURGE in measles cases means unvaccinated school children face being forced to self-isolate for 21 days.
Local councils issued warnings to parents after it emerged that up to 160,000 cases could occur in the capital alone.
Health officials say low uptake of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) jab has increased the risk of the potentially deadly infection.
Figures suggest one in four (25 per cent) of school kids in London haven’t had both doses of the lifesaving jab, compared to 15 per cent across the country.
The World Health Organisation recommends an uptake should be around 95 per cent to provide herd immunity and prevent outbreaks.
Fresh UK Health Security Agency data suggests there were 128 cases of measles in the first half of this year compared with 54 in the whole of the last one, with 66 per cent of those detected in London.
Parents in London and surrounding counties were told that if a pupil is infected with the bug, classmates and siblings who have not had both doses of MMR could be sent home and asked to self-isolate for three weeks.
London’s Barnet Council wrote to parents warning that their child could face a three week isolation period from school if they are identified as a close contact of someone with measles.
“Currently we are seeing an increase in measles cases circulating in neighbouring London boroughs, so now is a good time to check that your child’s MMR vaccination – which not only protects your child against measles but also mumps and rubella – is up to date,” it read.
“Any child identified as a close contact of a measles case without satisfactory vaccination status may be asked to self-isolate for up to 21 days.
“Children who are vaccinated do not need to be excluded from school or childcare.”
Hertfordshire County Council sent out a similar warning to parents of unvaccinated children of the potential 21-day exclusion period.
This letter added: “Spending 15 minutes or more in direct contact with someone infected with measles is enough to catch the infection’”
The Telegraph reported that a similar letter was sent by neighbouring Haringey Council.
The 21-day isolation period is based of guidance published in 2019 by the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) predecessor Public Health England.
The MMR vaccine is 99 per cent effective after two doses, with the first dose normally given around a child’s first birthday and the second at three years old.
Measles is a highly infectious disease, spreading quickly from person to person, especially in schools.
It is so contagious that a child who has it will infection up to nine out of 10 children around them, if not protected by a jab.
Around 20 to 40 per cent of children who catch it end up being hospitalised.
Mums-to-be who also catch the bug are at risk of miscarriage.
Experts have previously told the Sun an emergence of the Victorian disease this winter is looming.
“This (low vaccine uptake) is shockingly bad and is begging for a big outbreak,” Prof Helen Bedford, an expert in child public health at University College London, said.
Susceptibility is particularly high among 19 to 25 year olds.
Many within the age group went unvaccinated at the time because of unfounded stories about the vaccines safety in the 2000s.
The UKHSA says that uptake of non-Covid vaccines fell during the pandemic.
But Prof Helen said the low uptake could also be down to the national shortage of healthcare workers, who are often the only people to discuss vaccinations with parents.
Data from NHS Digital reveals there were 5,870 health visitors in July 2022, a drop of 43 per cent from its peak of 10,309 in October 2015.
Anyone can catch up on missed injections for free at any age.
Parents can check that their children are fully up to date by checking their vaccine record in the red book.
What the are the symptoms of measles?
MEASLES usually begins with cold-like symptoms.
- a high temperature
- a runny or blocked nose
- a cough
- red, sore, watery eyes
Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later. These spots usually last a few days.
A blotchy red rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms. It starts on the face and behind the ears before moving to the rest of the body.
It usually clears in seven to 10 days but can lead to other serious complications.
Severe complications can occur, including miscarriage in pregnant women, brain swelling and the risk of death from pneumonia.
It’s very unlikely to be measles if you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine or you’ve had measles before.
But it you think you or your child could have measles ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111.