UK loses ‘measles-free’ status

27 August 2019

Article: 53/3402

The UK has lost its ‘measles-free’ status with the World Health Organization (WHO) three years after the measles virus was eliminated from the country.

The UK initially achieved WHO measles elimination status in 2017, but in 2018 there was a marked increase in the number of confirmed measles cases with 991 confirmed cases in England and Wales, compared with 284 cases in 2017.

The same strain of measles virus, B3 Dublin, was detected for more than 12 months across 2017 and 2018. Based on this, the WHO determined that the UK could no longer be considered ‘measles-free’ and that transmission of the virus had been re-established.

Measles can be prevented through two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is offered free by the NHS to all young children in the UK. While coverage of the first dose in the UK has reached the WHO target of 95% for children aged five, coverage of the second dose is at 87.4%.

On 19 August 2019, Public Health England (PHE) reviewed the reasons for the change in the UK’s status, and the ongoing efforts being made to protect the British population from the measles virus.

Source: Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS), 20 August 2019