British boy dies from measles

The death of a 13 year old boy in Britain from measles is the first fatality from the infection in 14 years and has ignited concern that the once common killer is back.

Already the number of new measles cases for 2006 has reached 100 well above the 77 cases reported for the whole of last year.

In an outbreak in Doncaster, 32 cases have been confirmed and 36 are still being investigated.

The first infections seemingly developed among children at the same playgroup who, at less than a year old, were too young to have had the MMR jab.

The disease has now spread to older children and nearby areas.

The majority of cases reported have been in the travellers community where vaccine coverage is traditionally low.

Two injections are needed to give complete protection and, of the 72 confirmed cases, two children had received only the first injection.

But the outbreak highlights concerns about uptake of the MMR vaccine not just among travellers but the population as a whole.

Immunisation rates in the UK eight years after the first scare over the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, are among the lowest in Western Europe.

What now appears to be unfounded fears that the triple jab could lead to autism caused take-up to fall from over 90 per cent in 1998 to less than 80 per cent two years ago.

Currently, 81 per cent of children have the combined vaccine before they are two; many European countries achieve the 95 per cent coverage recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent outbreaks.

The 13 year-old who died was particularly susceptible as he was being treated for a lung condition.

The boy died of an infection of the central nervous system caused by a reaction to the measles virus.

The Health Protection Agency has described his death as shocking and urges parents to have their children vaccinated with MMR.

Travellers groups have reportedly said they feel excluded from the healthcare system because the lack of a permanent address means vaccination reminder notices don't arrive and it is difficult to make GP appointments.

Despite the widely held belief that measles has been eradicated in the developed world, France in 2004 had 4,448 cases and Germany had 121.

Complications include severe coughs and breathing difficulties, ear and eye infections and pneumonia.

There can be serious complications affecting the brain and nervous system.

More than 1,000 staff at the Central Middlesex Hospital in northwest London were being vaccinated last night after a measles outbreak.

Six nurses were in isolation after catching the disease from two children recently admitted to the hospital.