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Measles outbreak

There are currently lots of stories in the media about measles outbreaks around the UK. At CLDF we know that this may cause concern for some of our families. To help, we wanted to give you some important information about the virus, which children may be more at risk and what to do if you have any worries or concerns.


What is measles?

Measles is an infection that is passed on by coughing and sneezing the virus into the air. It spreads very easily and can be an unpleasant illness. Most children and young people who get the virus recover fully. However, measles can lead to serious complications in some people.

Measles was a common illness in the UK before the introduction of the measles vaccine. However, we are seeing an increase in cases due to a drop in vaccination rates. This is causing outbreaks in some areas.

 Who can get measles?

Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or if they haven’t had the infection before. In the general population, most children are already vaccinated against measles as part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination programme.

How does it spread?

Measles is passed on by coughing and sneezing the virus into the air. The virus can also survive on surfaces for a few hours. An infected person can spread measles to others without even knowing they have it. This is because it usually takes around 10-12 days to develop symptoms. An infected person can pass the virus to others from four days before to four days after the measles rash appears.

Are some children and young people at higher risk?

Yes, some children and young people are at higher risk of catching the virus or having serious complications from measles. This includes:

  • Babies under the age of 12 months, who are too young to be fully immunised.
  • Children who are immunosuppressed (have a weakened immune system due to medicines or illness).
  • Children who have not had the MMR vaccination.

 Can high risk children still attend nursery and school?

Children with a weakened immune system can still attend nursery and school, but it is important to inform staff in childcare settings of their increased risk. This will make teachers and staff aware and will allow them to inform you of any possible outbreaks or contacts.

Children and young people should be removed from nursery and school if they have been in contact with someone who has measles or is likely to have measles. If you are unsure about the level of contact, it is important to contact your GP or liver team for advice.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The first symptoms develop around 10 days after being infected and may include:

  • Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough.
  • Sore, red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • A high temperature (fever).
  • Small white spots in the mouth.
  • Aches and pains.

After these first symptoms, a red blotchy rash usually appears after 3-4 days.

Children who are immunosuppressed may not show typical symptoms, so it is important to contact your GP if you have any concerns.

What should I do if I think my child has measles or if a member of our household has been in contact with someone who has / may have measles?

There are some keys steps to take:

  • Phone your GP urgently. If your GP is closed, phone 111.
  • Do not go to the GP or any healthcare setting without calling ahead first. This helps to prevent the spread of measles.
  • Contact your liver team for advice. Your child’s risk will be assessed, and action taken if necessary.
  • Stay off school, nursery and work until you have been given the all-clear by a doctor. Children with a weakened immune system may need to isolate for longer.

How is measles diagnosed?

A doctor will usually be able to diagnose measles from your child’s symptoms. A simple saliva test can also be done to confirm the diagnosis. In the UK, measles is a notifiable illness. This means a doctor will inform the local Health Protection Team. This is done to help contain the spread of infection.

 How can I prevent measles spreading to others?

If your child or a member of your household has measles:

  • Stay off school, nursery and work until you have given the all-clear by a doctor. Children with a weakened immune system may need to isolate for longer.
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water.
  • Use and dispose of tissues when sneezing.
  • Do not share cutlery, cups, towels, clothes, or bedding.

How is measles treated?

In most cases, measles is an unpleasant illness, but it will get better after about a week. Treatment usually involves dealing with the symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Use damp cotton wool to clean the eyes.
  • Seek advice from your child’s doctor before using over the counter medicines to treat fever, aches and pains.

What if my child is immunosuppressed or at higher risk?

If your child is immunosuppressed or at high risk from complications, the medical team may consider using a treatment called immunoglobulin (IVIG). This is used to prevent an attack of measles or to reduce the severity of an attack. The medical team will check your child’s immunity status, level of immunosuppression and the risk of infection before deciding if treatment is needed.

What are the possible complications of measles?

Complications from measles are rare, but some people are more at risk. This includes children and young people with weakened immune systems.

Serious complications may include:

  • Ear infections.
  • Being sick (vomiting)
  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Brain infection (encephalitis)
  • Fits (seizures)

Where can I get further help or support?

If you are concerned about your child, contact your GP or liver team for help and advice.

The CLDF Families Team is also here for you. They can be contacted on 0121 212 6023 or via email at:


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Leo says:

    Did you know that in the US they vaccinate some liver transplant patients for with the MMR vaccine, maybe given there is an outbreak UK policy should be changed to allow this like they do.

    • Children's Liver Disease Foundation says:

      Thanks so much for your comment and it is very interesting to know that this is happening for some patients in the US. However as the MMR is a live vaccination we would strongly advise our families take the advice of their medical team regarding measles and the protocols that are in place.

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