Reported measles cases have almost doubled in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed.

The number of reported cases has increased from 497 last year to 964 for the first six months of this year. The HPA has said there are current measles outbreaks in Merseyside and Suffolk, and are urging all parents to ensure children are up-to-date with their MMR vaccinations before the start of the new school term.

The HPA said uptake for the first MMR jab in England currently stands at 93 per cent (Wales 92 per cent) and 87 per cent for the second MMR injection in both England and Wales.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: "Measles can be very serious and parents should understand the risks associated with the infection, which in severe cases can result in death.

"Although uptake of the MMR has improved in recent years some children do not get vaccinated on time and some older children, who missed out when uptake was lower, have not had a chance to catch up.

"Therefore, there are still enough people who are not protected to allow some large outbreaks to occur among unvaccinated individuals."

Cases of German measles, or rubella, have also increased, with 57 cases reported between January and June in England - more than the yearly totals for each of the past nine years. However, the majority of cases have been linked to European travel.

Measles can be fatal in some cases, and can cause numerous complications, including meningitis and encephalitis.

Story posted by Robert Mair on 28 August 2012