Should Under-Vaccinated Children Avoid Visiting London

London measles outbreaks continue into the holiday travel season

london bridge

According to media reports, Public Health England (PHE) announced about 90 measles have been reported in a south London borough, mainly in school-age children. 

The Standard reported on December 17, 2019, that parents in Wandsworth, which is located southwest of London City, have been warned by PHE to ‘vaccinate their children following a sudden rise in measles cases in local schools ahead of the holidays.’

In reaction to this PHE notice, parents of children at schools in Wandsworth were sent a letter by the local government inviting them to attend the town hall catch-up measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination session, as soon as possible. 

‘Wandsworth parents can also seek measles vaccination advice from a GP or practice nurse,’ said this notice.

Wandsworth Cabinet member for health and social care Cllr Melanie Hampton said in a press statement on December 13th: “Measles isn’t a harmless childhood disease and some people go on to develop very serious complications, so please make sure you and your children are fully immunized.”

Previously, an eastern suburb of London reported a similar measles outbreak.

On October 2, 2019, PHE and the local council announced a measles outbreak in Southend-on-Sea, in Essex. Within one week, 9 measles cases were confirmed by the government.

PHE says measles is common in many countries around the world, and currently, there are several large measles outbreaks across Europe.

London's current measles outbreak is reported to be related to religious pilgrims returning from Israel and Ukraine with the measles virus. A similar measles outbreak occurred in Israel during 2007.

According to the New York Times in April 2019, the measles outbreaks in London is related to Breslov Hasidic Jews visiting the Ukrainian city of Uman in 2018.

Based on the findings of a recent study, a very large percentage of children traveling aboard are not fully protected from infectious diseases, such as measles.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study published on December 9, 2019, found that despite recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a large number of children traveling aboard are not protected from the measles virus due to a clinician decision or guardian refusal.

This new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics and reported about 88 percent of MMR vaccination–eligible school-aged travelers were not vaccinated during pre-departure consultation.

This study is important since children represent less than 10 percent of international travelers departing the USA, but have accounted for about 47 percent of known measles importation cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 75 percent of the measles cases in the USA during 2019 were related to just a few, under-vaccinated international travelers.

Previous London measles outbreak news

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says ‘measles is a highly infectious viral illness that now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination. But, anyone can get measles if they have not been vaccinated or have not had it before.

The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of an infected person’s nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

In most cases, measles can be prevented by having 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they have not been fully vaccinated before.

And, if the MMR vaccine is not suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if you're at immediate risk of catching measles, says the NHS.

To notify all international travelers of their health risks, the CDC issued the worldwide measles Level 1, Travel Alert in June 2019, which includes the UK.

This CDC travel alert says ‘before you travel internationally, regardless of where you are going, make sure you are protected fully against measles. If you are not sure, see your healthcare provider at least 1-month before your scheduled departure.’

The CDC says measles can be prevented with 2-doses of the MMR-II vaccine and children have the option of getting the Proquad vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.

Furthermore, a commentary published in The Lancet on September 20, 2019, discusses the long-term immunity related to early infant vaccinations for the measles virus.

This editorial indicates a 3-dose measles vaccine schedule may be needed in ‘outbreak zones.’

As a general notice, the CDC says ‘any vaccine can cause a side effect, which should be reported to a healthcare provider, or to the CDC.’

Measles vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations