WEARSIDE health experts are urging parents to have their children immunised after a public watchdog warned of a surge in measles cases.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed that there were more cases reported in the North East during the last 22 days than in the whole of 2011.
It is now calling it a “very serious” outbreak, with almost 50 confirmed cases of the illness in recent months.
It is understood the rise is down to it being spread among those who do not have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
Nonnie Crawford, Sunderland’s director of public health, said: “We urge parents to ensure their children have had all of their primary immunisations, but in particular the MMR jab so they are protected from measles, mumps and rubella.
“Vaccinations have saved countless lives and are one of the most effective measures to help you stay well.”
A total of 46 confirmed cases have been reported in the North East since the beginning of September, with doctors dealing with a further 50 suspected cases.
It compares with 18 confirmed cases in 2011 and 11 in 2010, with just 40 cases last year.
Julia Waller, immunisation lead for the HPA in the North East, said: “This measles outbreak is very serious and we are likely to see many more cases before it’s over.
“The sad thing is that most, if not all, of these cases could have been avoided if people had been up to date with MMR vaccination.
“There are still too many children and young adults who were not vaccinated”.
The HPA has alerted GPs, out-of-hours services and hospitals and asked them to notify it of any cases they come across.
Parents who are not sure if their child has been vaccinated should ask their GP.