Red book

Measles: What to look out for and how to keep your children safe

Lancashire's Director of Public Health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi and Lancashire GP Dr Lindsey Dickinson on how to protect yourself and your loved ones against measles and why you should be taking action now.


Dr Sakthi Karunanithi-6


Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health, Lancashire County Council


If you've been following the news, you'll know there has been a recent, increase in measles cases in England, including (at the time of writing) an ongoing outbreak centred in Birmingham and around the West Midlands region of England.

Most of the cases have been in children under the age of 10 years with many outbreaks linked to nurseries and schools.

While there are no reported cases in Lancashire at the time of writing, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is warning that further outbreaks of measles will spread to other towns and cities unless urgent action is taken to increase measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination uptake in areas at greatest risk. 

Measles has practically been eradicated from Lancashire for several years so as Director of Public Health, I am concerned by the prospect of it returning.

Across England, uptake of the routine childhood vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, is the lowest it has been in a decade and is well below the levels needed to protect the population and prevent outbreaks.

This is giving this serious disease a chance to get a foothold in our communities.

We want to make sure that parents have all the information they need about measles and MMR vaccination so they feel equipped with the knowledge of how to protect themselves and their loved ones from this disease. 


What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools.

It can be a very unpleasant illness and usually starts off with a high temperature and a cold with red eyes, followed by a rash that spreads from your face to the rest of your body. The rash may be harder to spot on black or brown skin.

In some children measles can be very serious, leading to hospitalisation and in rare cases can cause death.

People in certain at-risk groups including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles.


How to protect your loved ones from measles

Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community.

Achieving high vaccination coverage across the population is important as it also indirectly helps protect very young infants and other vulnerable groups.

You can get the MMR vaccine on the NHS for free from your GP practice. Children are offered the first dose when aged one year and the second dose aged 3 years 4 months.

We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their 2 MMR doses.

It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS whatever your age.


Dr Lindsey Dickinson


Dr Lindsey Dickinson, NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) Associate Medical Director


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include a high fever, sore red watery eyes and a blotchy red-brown rash.

There is information on measles on the NHS website.

This includes advice to parents and carers to check if their child has measles, including photos of the measles rash.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, so anyone with symptoms is advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice, rather than visiting the surgery or A&E, to prevent the illness spreading further.


How infectious is measles?

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can spread easily through coughing and sneezing.

Measles has an ‘R value’ of 15, which is very high and means it can easily reach other people very quickly.

To put that into perspective, Covid-19 has an R value of 3. Influenza is 1.7 and the common cold has an R value of 8.

With such a high R value, it only takes a small amount of time for measles to spread from a handful of people to thousands of cases, especially if there are a lot of unvaccinated people.

Currently, uptake of MMR in the region is much lower than the 95% target set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is necessary to protect the population.


Book a vaccine now

If your child’s vaccines are not up to date, book at the GP practice. Check your child’s Red Book if you are not sure or call the GP practice.

If you are not registered for a GP practice: find your nearest practice and get registered by checking:

For more information, visit:


NHS red book