Vaccinations

Measles outbreak: what to do

Measles outbreaks can happen anywhere and anytime. Here's what to do in the event of a measles outbreak near you.

If your children haven’t yet had their routine MMR vaccination, don’t delay. There were over 800 confirmed cases of measles including one death in the recent measles outbreak in Swansea and there could be similar measles outbreaks in future.

Why is it so important to be vaccinated against measles?

Measles isn’t trivial. It’s a very infectious, nasty illness which, in rare cases, can be fatal. About one in five children with measles experiences complications such as ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, pneumonia, meningitis, and eye disorders. One in 10 children with measles ends up in hospital. There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the only way of preventing it.

How easy is it to catch measles?

Measles spreads very easily. In fact, it's one of the most infectious diseases known. You can catch measles if you spend just 15 minutes with someone who has the disease.

Read more about measles and the MMR vaccination.

Can adults catch measles?

Yes, and adults are likely to be more ill than children and for longer. Someone with measles generally has to spend five days in bed and be off work for 10 days. Adults are also more prone to measles complications than children.

Measles cases in England and Wales and MMR uptake rate in England 1998-2012

We live a long way from the outbreak, so should I be worried?

Outbreaks of measles can happen anywhere at anytime, so wherever you live in the UK it’s important that your children are up-to-date with their MMR and other childhood vaccinations.

If your child has already had two doses of MMR vaccine, you don't need to worry. Similarly if your child had their first dose of MMR as a baby but they are not yet old enough to have received their second dose, this counts as them being up to date and there is no need to have the second MMR dose earlier than scheduled.

However, if your child is school aged and has only had one MMR dose, or not been vaccinated at all, they really should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Find out which vaccinations are available on the NHS.

What if I'm going close to an area with an outbreak?

If you have plans to travel to the outbreak areas, make immediate arrangements with your GP for your children to receive the MMR vaccination if they haven’t had both doses before.

Babies and young children can have doses of the vaccination earlier/closer together than usual in special circumstances.

Can my children still have the MMR vaccination if they weren’t vaccinated as babies?

Yes, it’s never too late for your children (or yourself) to ‘catch up’ with MMR vaccination if they missed it earlier. Children up to the age of 18 and adults without immunity should have a catch-up MMR vaccination.

Can a baby under six months have the MMR vaccine?

No. Babies under six months usually have some antibodies to measles already in their system, passed on from their mum at the time of birth, which may give them some protection for the first few months.  But this residual immunity also interferes with their response to the MMR vaccine.

So, the best approach for children under six months is to try to avoid them having any contact with measles. It's also a good idea to make sure the rest of your family have had the MMR, especially if you are planning to visit an outbreak area, as the greatest risk is in the household.

I’m not sure if my kids are already vaccinated. How do I find out?

MMR vaccination is usually given as a first dose around the age of 13 months and then again as a ‘booster’ jab before school at age three to five. If your child has already had the vaccine it should be recorded in their medical notes and in their personal health record (the `Red Book`). Ask your GP or practice manager if you’re not sure.

Find your local GP.

What do I do if my GP isn’t sure if my family has been vaccinated?

If you or your GP are unsure whether your children have been vaccinated against measles before, then go ahead and arrange to have your kids vaccinated again. It won’t hurt them to have the MMR vaccination a second or third time.

Will I have to pay for the MMR vaccination?

No, MMR vaccination is available to adults and children free on the NHS.

Can you still get measles after the MMR vaccination?

It’s extremely unlikely, but you need two doses of MMR to be fully protected. The first dose of the MMR jab protects 90% of those who receive it, and the second dose tops this up to 99% protection. Almost all of the children in the Welsh outbreak who caught measles were either completely unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

How do I arrange vaccination?

Simply call your local GP practice and make an appointment for an MMR jab. It involves two doses which can be given just a month apart to protect as quickly as possible. If you aren’t registered with a GP, find the nearest doctor’s surgery who will give your family the jabs.

Find a local GP

Read more about how the MMR jab is given.

Can adults have the MMR jab?

It’s not just children who can benefit from MMR vaccination. Adults who are unsure whether they’ve had measles or been vaccinated, particularly if they’re carers or work with children, can have the MMR vaccine on the NHS from their GP. Bear in mind that most adults born before 1970 are likely to be immune because they have probably been exposed to measles already.


Page last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 43 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 39 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

jazzes said on 11 September 2013

I was born in 1969 and had a measles vaccination in Dec 1972, I am immune to Rubella (tested in pregnancy) and had mumps as a child, do I need to have the MMR to work in the NHS?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

leightoncolegrave said on 08 September 2013

There is lots of publicity and effort being put in to make sure that youngsters who missed their MMR have it asap. However there are nearly 9000 cases of TB every year in the UK, which is far more than measles. Why is very little is being done to protect our teenagers who had their routine BCG vaccinations withdrawn by the Government? Is TB no longer a serious disease?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 05 August 2013

The measles outbreak in Wales is officially over, so no need for early MMR doses any longer. But to make sure they're protected for any future outbreaks, all children should have MMR jabs in line with the childhood schedule - as well as any adults who haven't been immunised.

Thanks,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mrs Kimsos said on 11 July 2013

My family are travelling to Wales on holiday at the beginning of August and I have been told by my GP surgery that my 22 month old daughter does not need her second MMR booster despite the information on this page. I have directed the surgery to this page so they can see the official NHS advice but they are still refusing to allow my child to have the second booster. I have not had an MMR myself (child of the late 70s) and my GP has agreed that I should have both boosters before I go on holiday but my child can go with just the one - how can this be acceptable? The surgery said that the NHS Wales website says children are no longer being given the second booster early as the epicemic was declared over on 3rd July. Which website is correct please? It is getting close to our holiday now and I am worried my child is at risk. Many thanks.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 09 July 2013

Dear Findlay2

If you're travelling to a country with an outbreak of measles - or indeed living in such a country - the MMR doses can be given one month apart after 12 months of age. It's quite safe to do this, and won't put too much vaccine in the child's system.
You can read more in the Measles chapter of the Department of Health's 'Green Book' about vaccinations at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/measles-the-green-book-chapter-21

Regards,
Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 09 July 2013

Hi concerneddad62,

It's safe to have more than two doses of MMR - so better to be safe than sorry.

All the best,
Kathryn at NHS Choices

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Findlay2 said on 04 July 2013

My Daughther is currently 14 1/2 months old and we are due to travel to turkey in Sept, I was advised she may require a second dose of MMR for going as there has been a previous outbreak in instanbul in 2010 i believe, My question is, if we are not told to get a 2nd dose for our children sooner when there has been an outbreak in our own country in wales, then why do we need one for travelling to a place there was an outbreak in 2 yrs ago (we are not visitng istanbul)? I am all for protecting my child based on the recommendations but i am concerned to give a 2nd dose of MMR so soon as she only had her last one a few months ago. Is there a risk of them having too much in their system? Would appreciate some guidance. May tnanks in advance

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

concerneddad62 said on 03 July 2013

My 13 year old twins had the MMR and booster when they were younger, but we've been contacted to say the hospital records only say they had one of the injections. The red book gives a general comment that all immunisations are up to date, but there is no date for this comment. I was happy for my children to have the MMR when they were younger and I'm 99% certain they had both injections. I'm concerned about them potentially having it a third time at their current age. Is there any research on the risks of repeat immunisations I can look at?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 18 June 2013

Dear Pompom1971_123,

It would be extremely unusual for a twice-vaccinated child with no clear history of contact to catch measles.

It's much more likely that the measles diagnosis is wrong.

Ask your GP to send a saliva sample to confirm whether your daughter really does have measles (most GP diagnoses of measles in England are wrong on testing).

If they were Kopliks, a measles rash follows in 48 hours. Also, Kopliks spots are usually on the sides of the mouth not the palate (roof of mouth) and are not very specific.

Hope that helps,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Pompom1971_123 said on 17 June 2013

My 4 year old daughter has had her MMR jab at 13 months and about 2-3 months ago received her 2nd in the pre school booster. This morning I took her to the doctors as she was unwell at the weekend and yesterday I found some weird looking spots on the roof of her mouth. The doctor has said that these are Koplik Spots and that she has suspected measles and reported it to the authorities. Can someone explain how she could have possibly caught measles after having all of the injections!? Thanks

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 29 May 2013

Dear sarahkathleen,

It sounds like a local health ‘professional’ isn’t up to speed. In an outbreak area you can give the second MMR a month after the first, or earlier than scheduled – and it does work.

Regards, Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 24 May 2013

Dear Miami1,

The nurse is right. Babies aged six to 11 months in outbreak areas can be vaccinated with one dose of MMR. They should then resume the normal schedule as if they haven't had that dose, ie a dose at 12 or 13 months and another at 3 years and 4 months.

Babies in outbreak areas who've had their first dose at 12 to 13 months or later, can have a second dose one month after the first.

Hope that helps,
Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

sarahkathleen said on 23 May 2013

found information contradictory to that on nhs website.
I will be visiting Llanelli frequently with my 35 month old child, as per the advice on nhs website I requested 2nd mmr early for my child but was refused/ fobbed off, was told by nurse that second dose would have no effect as she is not yet due it! Make your minds up nhs, online it says that after first dose 5-10% arent protected but after 2nd dose only 1% and that the second dose can be given early. I am worried and seriously not amused!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Miami7 said on 22 May 2013

I live in swansea and my six month old baby had his first mmr jab yesterday. There's seems to be conflicting advice on his second one. I would obviously like him to have it in one month,as advertised by the health authority in the press, but the nurse said he had to wait three months-what's the right thing to do please?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 20 May 2013

Hi Priti,

You aren't in an outbreak area, so there's no need for your daughter to have her second MMR any earlier than scheduled.

All the best,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Priti2 said on 17 May 2013

Hi My Daughter will be 3 next Friday (24th May), i have rang my GP to see if she should be given her MMR booster early and they have said there is no need, (she has had her MMR Jab at 12 months), but since i have heard conflicting views and others are saying that I should get her vaccinated ASAP. We live in Chepstow.

Don't really know what to do!

Any Suggestions

Thanks Priti

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 16 May 2013

Dear claresmith,

In theory, your son shouldn't need any additional doses of MMR. However, we know that some of the clinics that were offering single vaccines were abusing the vaccines and their quality cannot be guaranteed. If there's any doubt about the course of single vaccines your son received (where they were given, what vaccines were used), then one more dose of MMR will do no harm and you'll be on the safe side.

Hope that helps,

Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

claresmith said on 15 May 2013

My son (now 10 years old) was vaccinated with Single Vaccines in 2003 at 18 months. He was then given the MMR booster by the NHS GP in 2007(age 4).
Should he be recalled by the catch up program. If he is recalled how many vaccinations would he now require?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 30 April 2013

Dear Ddham,

Because you're visiting an outbreak area, your toddler should definitely have a second MMR dose beforehand.

GPs are officially advised to give vaccines early if there's 'urgent need', as in this case.

Try your GP again.

Best wishes,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor



Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Ddham said on 29 April 2013

Visiting Swansea in next few months on a few occasions so rang go to request booster jab for my 18 month old. He refused saying she doesn't need it until she is 3 1/2. Had explained visiting Swansea! Should I persue this and should she be entitled to booster prior to our visits? Am ready to write a letter if complaint but who should I address it to?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

pipwl said on 27 April 2013

my children are up to date with their injections but I am 48 and don't think I have been vaccinated. I rang my doctors to find out and they didn't know either, they said they would read my paper notes and get back to me but they haven't rung me. I recently travelled to Manchester which I think is an outbreak zone. How do I know if I'm immune or should I ask for the injection? thank you

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

agriffit said on 27 April 2013

My fiance from Bali is in the UK (Bristol) with me for the next 3 months.

She hasn't been vaccinated.
Is she eligible?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 26 April 2013

Dear lukewoody,

No need for you to have MMR. As you were born before 1970 you are almost certainly already immune to measles.

Thanks,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 26 April 2013

Dear KatGford,

No need for your baby to have MMR before he is 12-13 months unless you live in an outbreak area or are visiting one.

Best wishes,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 26 April 2013

Dear Smotyn,

Check with your GP and if there's no record of you having had measles or the measles vaccine before, it's a good idea to have MMR vaccination.

Thanks,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 26 April 2013

Dear Oxon mum,

Sorry about any confusion here. To be clear, there is NO need for a child who has had one dose of MMR in line with the childhood vaccination schedule to speed up their second dose UNLESS they live in an outbreak area or are going to one.

In your case, wait until your son is the age when he would normally have his second MMR dose.

I've reworded the article to hopefully clarify this.

Kind regards,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor



Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Concerned mama said on 25 April 2013

I have a 3 year old and 13 month old; both have had their first dose of MMR. This article suggests they should have their second dose. I'm comfortable arranging this for my 3 year old given this is in line with the childhood immunisation schedule, but are there any health risks for my 13 month old having a further vaccination only a month after his last MMR (plus the other 2 jabs he had at the time as per Red Book schedule)? How come it's usually required at at least 3 years and 4 months old if it is actually ok to give the booster injection a month later?? I'm worried about the health risks of giving the little one a further dose so soon, especially if the first injection provides 90 per cent protection as stated on this website. He did suffer from a high temperature after the last lot of injections. What are the risks of another MMR injection for a very young child so soon after the first dose?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lukewoody said on 25 April 2013

i am 47 can i have a mmr jab

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

KatGford said on 25 April 2013

I have a 5 month old and know he isn't due for first jab until 12-13 months. Is the advice changing? What can I do to protect him if we have to wait until a year for his jabs? Thanks

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Smotyn said on 24 April 2013

I am 39 and I don't know if I had measles when I was a child, I definitely had german measles... but I had a rubella jab at 14 - is this enough of a vaccination? or do I need to go for the MMR?
Many thanks...

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Twinklefruit said on 24 April 2013

Sorry, not sure why my comment was posted several times! :)

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Twinklefruit said on 24 April 2013

I Would like some clarification on the MMR vaccine. My son is 15 months old and has had his first MMR dose two months ago and I wanted to Know whether he should have his 2nd vaccination now or wait till he is 3 in accordance with the vaccination schedule. I have spoken with my GP Surgery and NHS Direct and they both seem to say that there has been no official instructions or strategy put in place as of yet. So this leaves me wondering whether I need to get my son immunised with his second MMR or should I just wait and see what happens? I have to say I find it worrying to take the 'just wait and see what happens' approach. Is the early 2nd vaccination only given based on the risk or can I just request my son be vaccinated? Confused!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

leeh10 said on 24 April 2013

Hi there, I read above that if your children were going or had been near a place where there was an outbreak the mmr vaccination could be taken earlier at 6 months. My son is only 2 months what would the advice be?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Oxon Mum said on 23 April 2013

Would someone be able to clarify if the following statement above applies only to those children who are not up to date with their imms?

" If your child has already had two doses of MMR vaccine, you don't need to worry. However, if they've only had one dose, or have not been vaccinated at all, they really should be vaccinated as soon as possible."

My son is nealry two and has had his first dose of MMR in line with the baby imms schedule - this wording suggests he needs to have his next dose now, well in advance of when he would normally have it, is that correct?

Thank you.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 22 April 2013

Dear Mw789,

Make sure your son had a second dose of MMR. If he only had one, he should have another MMR vaccination now. If he's already had both, no problem. His ulcerative colitis doesn't make any difference.

Thanks,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

mischief71 said on 20 April 2013

My kids have both had their MMR jab - two doses each. But I've heard my almost 13 year old may need a booster at 14. Am I as well arranging for it now or waiting for a letter? Also hubby was born 1970 and not had measles - should he get immunised? We don't live nr the outbreak site though. I had measles as a child so I'm presuming I have some immunity.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mw789 said on 19 April 2013

My son has ulcerative colitis and is currently studying at Swansea university, he had hisMMR when he was a baby, should I be worrying about him contracting measles? If he does what should we do?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 17 April 2013

Dear pottingshead,

There is no national or local policy that prevents a GP vaccinating someone who is non-immune just because they are over 35 years. Maybe try another GP?

Best wishes,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

pottingshead said on 16 April 2013

my daughter is 38 and been told they are only doing people up to 35 at are dr.
she was not done as a child

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

MMR catch-up: new campaign unveiled

All schoolchildren aged 10-16 who are unvaccinated are being offered MMR to protect them from measles

MMR vaccine

Find out all about the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps and rubella

Measles

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, now rare in the UK due to the effectiveness of the MMR jab

Vaccinations: part 1

Watch part one of the vaccination series to find out why not being vaccinated, due to worry about side effects, means serious illnesses can become more common.

Media last reviewed: 20/11/2013

Next review due: 20/11/2015

Vaccinations: part 2

Watch the second part of a series about immunisation to find out why it's important to stay up to date with your vaccinations.

Media last reviewed: 20/11/2013

Next review due: 20/11/2015

Measles

Learn how measles is transmitted, how to recognise the infection and to treat it.

Media last reviewed: 20/08/2013

Next review due: 20/08/2013