Public Health England: music festivals 'are measles hotspots'

Tuesday August 9 2016

"Music festivals including Glastonbury have become a hotbed of measles this summer, Public Health England has warned," BBC News reports.

The public health body have called on young people to check their vaccination status before attending an event.

Public Health England (PHE) say there have been 38 suspected measles cases reported in people who attended events in June and July.

As there are a number of big musical festivals coming up, such as the Reading Festival, there are concerns that there could be further outbreaks.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. 

Anyone can get measles if they haven't been vaccinated or they haven't had it before, although it's most common in young children.

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you're infected.

These can include:

  • cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks

A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

Isn't measles a thing of the past?

Measles is now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination. But a plausible hypothesis is that we may see more cases in the coming months because of what can be described as the "Wakefield effect".

In 1998 the now discredited gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a high-profile paper in The Lancet journal.

Wakefield claimed there was a link between the widely used measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

The paper was subsequently found to be based on fraudulent research and was withdrawn by The Lancet.

But because of the controversy the paper stirred in the media, there was a considerable reduction in the number of children who received the MMR vaccine due to parental concern.

These children are now old enough to attend musical festivals – but without the immunity other generations take for granted.

Measles is extremely infectious, and events where people are mixing closely with each other provide the ideal place for the infection to spread.

And measles can be more severe in teenagers and adults, with some of the cases seen recently needing hospital treatment.

What do Public Health England recommend?

Teenagers and young people who are unsure if they have been fully vaccinated should check with their GP and make an appointment to ensure they receive the two doses of MMR vaccine required.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: "Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications.

"So, if you think you might have measles, please don't go to any of these big events.

"Measles isn't common these days because most of us are vaccinated, but young people who missed their MMR jab as children are vulnerable, especially if gathered in large numbers at an event.

"If you think you've got it, call your GP or NHS 111. Please don't turn up at the surgery or at A&E, as you could infect other patients."