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6 August 2018
According to Public Health England (PHE) there has been a steep increase in the number of cases of measles in England this year, and PHE is depending on GPs to be alert to the disease and know the signs and symptoms.
With people venturing abroad over the summer and heading to festivals, there is a particular risk for vulnerable groups or those who may not be fully vaccinated.
Measles is a highly infectious virus which can lead to life-threatening complications but can be prevented by vaccination. Last year the World Health Organisation said that the virus had been eliminated in the UK, however the current increase in cases is thought to be due to the virus being brought back from other parts of the world where there have been recent outbreaks, particularly in Europe.
As a result of this, PHE has declared a national measles incident, with 781 confirmed cases of measles in England between 1 January 2018 and 22 July 2018.
Recognising measles can be difficult and isn't always at the forefront of a GP's mind when seeing a patient with generalised symptoms of malaise. Public Health England is advising GPs to be mindful of the diagnosis when seeing patients with non-specific viral symptoms, such as coryza, coughs, conjunctivitis or sensitivity to light and high temperatures (typically over 39oC).
Those most vulnerable are aged 15 years and over who may not have had the MMR vaccine when they were younger, and particular consideration should be given to those who have travelled abroad recently, particularly to Europe, and those who have been in communities such as festivals, where transmission of airborne droplets of the virus and contact with respiratory secretions may be more likely. Others at risk include pregnant women, children below the age of one year and immunocompromised patients.
While the illness itself is generally self-limiting it can be associated with unpleasant complications, such as otitis media, diarrhoea, viral pneumonitis and, more rarely, life-threatening complications such as encephalitis and sub-acute sclerosing pan-encephalitis.
Missing a diagnosis of measles could lead to complaints or even potential claims, if a patient has suffered harm as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis.
In view of this, it may be worth considering the following information and risk management advice.
This guidance was correct at publication 06/08/2018. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.
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