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Measles: An overview for practice nurses

02 May 2020
Volume 31 · Issue 5


Since 2017, the United Kingdom has not been classed as ‘measles free’. Margaret Ann Perry examines measles symptoms, treatment and complications, showing why nurses should encourage vaccine uptake

This article will give an overview of measles, its symptoms, treatment and complications. Although rare, complications do still occur and can be fatal. Vaccination is the key to preventing this disease and the article therefore aims to raise awareness of potentially serious complications and will give nurses confidence in encouraging vaccine uptake among their patient population.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, caused by a virus belonging to the paramyxovirus family. Although predominantly a disease of childhood, measles can affect people of any age. The illness can be unpleasant, and although usually self-limiting, complications can occur, and fatality rates remain high in developing countries (Perry and Halsey, 2004). The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968, followed by the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination in 1988 reduced the number of cases considerably to a point that in 2017 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the UK had eliminated measles completely (Public Health England, 2019). However, these statistics have not been maintained and the UK is no longer considered to be ‘measles free’ by WHO. Concerns among the general public about the safety of the MMR vaccine led to a fall in the uptake of immunisation, and in 2018, there was a marked increase in the number of people diagnosed, with 991 confirmed cases in England and Wales, compared with 284 cases in 2017 (Public Health England, 2019). Practice nurses have a vital role to play in promoting uptake of immunisations. This article gives practice nurses an overview of this disease and aims to offer guidance on improving the situation in the future.

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