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Home / Latest News / Measles outbreak: New figures expected to show more than 1,000 cases

Measles outbreak: New figures expected to show more than 1,000 cases

Cases of measles in one of the biggest epidemics seen in the UK for more than two decades is likely to top 1,000 today as the latest figures are released.

The latest numbers will be released later by Public Health Wales and are expected to show another jump from last week’s figure of 942.

In the past few weeks, health officials have seen up to 20 new cases a day and, despite a widespread vaccination programme, many people in the Swansea area, where the epidemic is centred, are still at risk.

The figures come as an inquest into the death of a 25-year-old man is opened today.

Gareth Colfer-Williams was found dead at his Swansea flat and was confirmed to have had measles at the time.

An initial post-mortem by Swansea coroner was found to be inconclusive about whether the virus was the cause of death.

Despite this, officials have said that, as long as the epidemic continues to grow they “would not be surprised” to see a death in Wales.

Although the outbreak, which is one of the biggest since the introduction of the MMR in 1988, is centred on Swansea, rates of measles are high throughout the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University (ABMU), Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas, especially in Neath Port Talbot and north Powys.

The current outbreak has dwarfed previous outbreaks seen in Wales since the introduction of the MMR, with the previous highest figure reaching 159 in 2009, while 116 cases were recorded in 2012.

A major schools vaccination programme is continuing in South and West Wales as health officials try to target at-risk children, in particular those aged between 10 and 18 years old. It is thought that many in this group may have missed the MMR because of Andrew Wakefield’s now discredited research which linked the vaccine to autism.

Schools in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will be visited for the third week in a row, while vaccinations will start in schools in Bridgend from next week.

Yesterday, officials from Hywel Dda Health Board started visiting schools in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire for the first time since the outbreak started.

Dr Marion Lyons, director of health protection at Public Health Wales, urged parents to consent to their children having the MMR vaccine before the summer examinations start.

She said: “Young people have important examinations coming up and we need to make sure that those aged between 10 and 18 are vaccinated so their preparation for these examinations are not affected.

“We have seen that measles can be potentially fatal and no one should be complacent about the severity of measles. It can kill but can be prevented by a simple, safe vaccine.”

Professor Tom Horlick-Jones, an expert in risk and health at  Cardiff University’s school of social sciences who predicted a measles crisis a decade ago following the distrust of the MMR, said that young people needed to be persuaded to have the vaccine.

He said: “Having the jab needs to be seen as a ‘cool’ sort of thing to have. If you haven’t had it done, then you’re missing the boat, not keeping up with the crowd.

“We need some teenage role models to come forward and be seen to have the jab. Young people often have strong, idealistic views about how they would like the world to be. Here’s the chance for them to remind their parents of what needs to be done.”

Last weekend, 1,900 vaccinations were given at drop-in clinics in the ABMU aream while other sessions were also held by Aneurin Bevan Health Board and Hywel Dda.

Evening drop-in sessions will take place between 5.30pm and 8.30pm  tomorrow at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

Two more clinics will take place on Thursday, May 2 between 6pm and 9pm at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, and Morriston Hospital, Swansea. Those attending have been asked not to arrive early so they do not disrupt other clinics.

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