HEALTH officials have issued an urgent plea to parents in Gloucestershire after a total of 25 potential cases of measles in the county.

Public Health England officials are urging parents to check that they and their children have received two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

They have also asked parents to remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of the diseases, and if any are noticed to keep themselves and their children away from school, work and nursery.

This follows eight confirmed cases of measles, 12 probable and five possible in children and young adults in Gloucestershire within the past couple weeks.

To date, Marling School in Stroud has stated is has had a confirmed case of measles, as has Wynstones School in Whaddon.

Dr Ardiana Gjini, consultant screening and immunisation lead for PHE and NHS England in the South West, said those who haven’t received the vital second dose put the rest of the community at risk.

“The best and safest way to protect our children from measles is by vaccinating them with two doses of the MMR vaccine, available for free on the NHS,” she said.

“During 2016/17 across Gloucestershire, more than 90 per cent of children under two years old had received their first dose of the vaccine.

“However, even though over 5,400 children across Gloucestershire have had their two doses of the vaccine by the time they turned five, around 850 of the eligible under-fives have not.

“This leaves children and young people vulnerable to this serious illness as well as creating the potential for the virus to circulate in the community with the risk of small clusters or outbreaks occurring.

“Therefore I urge all parents and carers to please if in doubt ring your GP practice today to check and ensure that your children have had their full immunisation against measles, as well as mumps and German measles (rubella) with two doses of the MMR vaccine.”

An MMR catch-up immunisation campaign was launched in 2013, targeting unimmunised and partially immunised adolescents aged 10 to 16 years. As a result of this campaign only 90 cases were confirmed in 2014, and 59 cases in 2015.

However, 2016 has seen a marked increase with 318 confirmed cases of measles reported in England, leading PHE to launch regular pleas for vaccinations.

Dr Toyin Ejidokun, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health England South West, has urged people to be aware of the symptoms and slammed claims that vaccines are linked to autism.

“While measles is now relatively uncommon in England thanks to the MMR vaccine, those who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, remain susceptible to the disease,” said Dr Ejidokun.

“The cases we have seen recently have affected young children.

"It is important to be aware that it is never too late to have the vaccine, so if you’ve not received two doses of the vaccine in the past – or you’re unsure – speak to your GP.

"There’s no harm in receiving an additional dose where there is any uncertainty.

“The MMR vaccine is safe and effective vaccine and claims suggesting a link between the vaccine and autism have long-been thoroughly discredited.

“We are asking the community to remain alert to the symptoms of measles, which can include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature or a red-brown blotchy rash.

“If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention, but be sure to phone ahead before you visit your GP surgery so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected.”

For further information about measles, click here.

Information about the MMR vaccine can be found by clicking here.