A SUSPECTED measles outbreak has forced the closure of four learning disability day centres.

Health authorities have confirmed there are eight suspected cases and another 200 people who may been affected.

Southend Council is working with Public Health England and other health organisations to coordinate the response.

So far the investigation has revealed eight people who may have measles, all of whom attend day centre services for people with learning disabilities in Southend.

The council said up to 200 people who use these services could be at risk of contracting the condition and the council has been contacting service users and closing centres temporarily as a precaution, Any of these people who may have been directly exposed to the suspected outbreak will be offered the MMR vaccination, if they are not already immunised.

The condition can cause serious health complications including blindness.

Councillor Trevor Harp, cabinet member for health and adult social care, explained the people infected are particularly vulnerable.

He said: “There are more serious implications here and we are taking this very seriously.

“It’s vital we took prudent actions to nip any suspected outbreak in the bud as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for Public Health England said: “As an immediate priority, the council along with colleagues at the clinical commissioning group and Southend Care are identifying and contacting those people who may have been directly exposed and are offering these individuals MMR vaccinations if they are not already immunised.”

The spokesman added it is “very infectious.”

Experts issue advice for worried patients

Health and medical experts have issued advice for anyone suffering from measles and those who are concerned they have the symptoms.

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after a patient becomes infected.

Public Health England has issued advice for anyone who shows the signs of symptoms.

Most adults born before 1970 are likely to be immune because they have probably been exposed to measles already.

The symptoms of the conditions 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, which may reach around 40 degrees centigrade and 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.

Public Health England advises people with symptoms of measles to: Stay away from school, nursery or work until four days have passed after the onset of a rash, patients should call their doctor or nearest NHS walk-in centre before attending so that arrangements can be made for you to be treated in a separate area to prevent spread to other vulnerable patients.

Other advice for those with the symptoms include: avoiding contact with people generally, but specifically babies, pregnant women and anyone who is known to have poor immunity to infection.

There are also a number of websites with additional information for anyone worried about having symptoms or what to do.

Anyone with concerns can visit the NHS Measles page at www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/

Serious concerns over lack of immunisation 

Serious concerns have been raised about the lack of people taking up the measles, mumps and rubella MMR vaccination after a suspected health emergency.

Health experts have highlighted the need for increasing the number of people vaccinated after scare stories without medical foundation led to a drop in those taking up the jab.

Trevor Harp, independent councillor for health and adult social care, warned people away from anti-vaccination campaigns and insisted the council had supplies for those who need the jab.

He said: “Southend Council has provisions for vaccinations for all 200 people who may be at risk of any outbreak.

“I also want to emphasis our concern about how the level of MMR vaccinations has been reducing.

“The figures for all child vaccinations have been reducing.

“The issue is we lose an immunity, built up when high numbers of people have the vaccines.

“There had been talk and a study which suggested the vaccination for MMR can cause autism, and this caused parents to not want it but it has been proved there is no link now.”

Mr Harp said anti-vaccinations campaigners and social media scare stories are becoming more prevalent, despite being dismissed by expert doctors and the NHS, which puts people’s health at risk.

Recent figures revealed fewer children in Southend are having the full MMR vaccination, despite warnings from the NHS and those with medical qualifications.

Across England, take-up of the vaccine has fallen, with NHS chief executive Simon Stevens blaming anti-vaxxers increasing prominence as “part of the fake news movement”.

The latest figures show that in Southend, between April and September 2018, 86.7 per cent of children turning five had received the recommended two measles, mumps and rubella jabs.

This means around 154 children in the area are not fully vaccinated.

MMR take-up in Southend has dropped since 2017, when 89 per cent of five year olds had the full course of vaccinations, according to Public Health England.

The target, set by the World Health Organisation, is for 95 per cent coverage.

Parents’ concerns about children’s immune systems being “loaded up” with vaccines have been dismissed.

Mr Stevens said: “We are not being helped on this front by the fact that although nine in 10 parents support vaccination, half of them say they have seen fake messages about vaccination on social media.

“Frankly it’s as irresponsible to tell parents that their children shouldn’t be vaccinated as it is to say don’t bother to look both ways when they cross the road.”

The MMR vaccination is made up of two jabs, the first when babies are about one-yearold, and then before they start school aged three or four.

Southend had a higher takeup of the first jab in 2018, with 95.6 per cent of five year olds having had it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is a “very strong argument” for making it compulsory for school children to be vaccinated with the second jab.

The Government minister said he had received legal advice on the issue in recent days and was looking at it as a possible policy

‘Outbreak’ forces day centre closures across south Essex

Brentwood Live:

Closed - RE House in Southend is among the centre impacted

FOUR services that provide day care for people with learning difficulties have closed following recommendations from Southend Council.

The services closed include Project 49, Alexandra Street, Southend, RE House, Weston Road, Southend, Summercare Day Services, Ceylon Road, Southend and The Salvation Army Hadleigh Training Centre, in Castle Lane, Hadleigh.

Council bosses say they expect Project 49 to be closed until Friday at the earliest but say procedures will be in place for longer closures if needed.

Project 49, RE House and Summercare Day Service were contacted for comment.

Southend Council said the closures are vital in its work to prevent any further spread of any infection.

A Salvation Army spokesman said: “We will continue to work with Public Health England and Southend Council and will reopen when we have been given further guidance.

“We were advised to close the training centre because those who have suspected measles attend nearby day services for people with learning disabilities.

“Hadleigh Tea Rooms, Hadleigh Farm Rare Breeds Centre and the Hub Cafe in Hadleigh Park remain open to the public. If anyone has any concerns, we encourage them to follow advice published by the NHS and Public Health England.”