Schools at centre of Leicester’s measles infections

Leicester primary schools are acting as measles hotspots, the city’s director of public health has revealed. Between the start of October and Thursday, April 11, there have been 90 confirmed cases of the disease in the city and 26 “probable” cases, Rob Howard said at Leicester City Council’s public health meeting last night, Tuesday, April 16.

Probable cases are “almost certainly going to become confirmed cases”, Mr Howard added. Around 35 different settings have been affected, most of which have been primary schools, he said.

“A few” places of worship have also seen outbreaks, said Mr Howard. Leicester has been hit worst of all East Midlands areas, the meeting was told, with most of the cases in the region being in the city. The increase in the virus has been blamed on dropping rates of uptake for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

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“We saw a real dip in the MMR (vaccination) uptake over the last few years and particularly since and during the Covid pandemic which means young children aren’t protected,” Mr Howard said.

“It’s an incredibly infectious disease. If you’re in a room with a hundred people and one of them has measles and they’re all unvaccinated, 90 of them will probably walk out with measles. It’s four or five times more infectious than Covid, for example.”

The city council and local health services have “done a huge amount of work … to get on top of this and control it”, Mr Howard added. Steps taken locally include a “roving” vaccination van to take jabs into schools and workshops in schools to explain the situation to parents and address any concerns they might have.

There have been around “230 jabs in arms” since the vaccination van was launched in February. Pork and gelatine free vaccines are also “readily available” in the city for those who need them for religious reasons.

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