Encephalitis Information Week

During Encephalitis Information Week (Oct 17 to 22), we are calling on parents and guardians across the world to get the facts about measles and how to protect their families against it.

Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease which can lead to serious complications and even death. It can, however, be prevented by taking the MMR vaccination.

Dr Ava Easton, CEO of Encephalitis International, says: “It is vital that parents and carers seek advice about the MMR vaccine and other routine childhood immunisations.

“It is not only for the benefit of their own child’s health, but for the health of others as well.

“Measles is so contagious that just one person with measles can infect another nine people who have not been vaccinated or did not have the illness. (1)

“By comparison, someone with COVID-19 is likely to infect two to three other unvaccinated people. (2)

“Many people think that measles infection is a harmless childhood illness – it isn’t.  A measles infection for an unvaccinated child or adult can lead to complications such as ear infections, severe diarrhoea, long-term vision problems, pneumonia, and encephalitis, which can require hospital treatment and lead to long-term disability or death.” (3)

Why are we talking about measles?

During 2000 – 2018, measles vaccinations have prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths globally (4)

Data has revealed that the MMR vaccination rate in the UK has dropped to its lowest level in a decade with more than one in 10 five-year-olds not up to date with their two doses of the vaccine. (5)

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) earlier this year revealed that coverage for the two doses of the MMR vaccine in five-year-olds in England is currently at 85.5% – well below the 95% target which the World Health Organization (WHO) say is needed to achieve and sustain measles elimination. (6)

The issue is not restricted to just the UK however, with the UNICEF and WHO reporting earlier this year that measles cases nearly doubled globally in the first two months of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. (7)

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a significant fall in the number of measles vaccinations, increasing the risk of outbreaks globally (8)

What can you do?

We are urging parents and guardians to get the facts about measles and its complications from reliable sources such as their local family doctor or accredited healthcare organisations.

In the UK, children are offered two doses of the MMR vaccine, the first when they turn one and the second at around three years and four months, before beginning nursery or school.

Professor Benedict Michael, Chair of Infection Neuroscience at the University of Liverpool, said: “The belief among my NHS colleagues is that there might be many reasons why parents have not had their child vaccinated against MMR including because they didn’t realise the NHS was offering appointments following the COVID-19 outbreak or that they didn’t want to burden the NHS during the pandemic.

“Also, many people may not be aware that measles infection can cause a universally fatal inflammation of the brain in children and young adults called SSPE.

“We want to assure everyone that it is safe to go and have your vaccinations, protect your children and, in turn, anyone who is not immune.”

Get informed about measles

The World Health Organization have put together some helpful information about measles, including signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.



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Page Created: 20 October 2023
Last Modified: 7 December 2023
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