A tenfold increase in measles cases has led the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to urge parents to have their children vaccinated against the disease.

The HPA have reported 334 cases of measles, compared to just 33 in the same period last year. It is believed the outbreak is linked to France, where 7,000 cases have been reported in the first five months of the year - more than all of the cases recorded in the whole of 2010.

In the UK, there were a total of 374 cases in 2010. These were mainly in children and adults under the age of 25 years of age, with the vast majority involving unvaccinated people. Measles cases have been associated with small clusters in universities, schools and families, or linked to travel abroad.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the immunisation department at the HPA, said: "We again are reminding parents and young adults of the importance of immunisation. Although MMR coverage has improved over the last few years, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. 

"Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily. Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised."

The HPA has also noted a large outbreak of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) caused by e.coli in northern Germany, and is warning travellers to be on their guard for bloody diarrhoea.

Posted by Robert Mair on 27.5.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com