Official figures from Public Health England show that there were 349 cases of measles in the UK in 2017, representing an incidence of 4.4 cases per million population. The figure is a significant improvement on 2016 when there were 562 reported cases, equating to an incidence rate of 10.4 per million. However, the rate remains significantly higher than 2015 and 2014 when there were 90 and 96 cases, respectively, equating to incidence rates of 1.1 and 1.5 per million.
Additionally, 10 cases of rubella were reported last year, the highest figure since 2012. Although the incidence of rubella was maintained at a rate of 0.02 cases per million in 2014, 2015 and 2016, last year’s cases bring the rate up to 0.1 per million.
The WHO confirmed that the UK achieved elimination status for rubella and for measles in recent years. The criteria required to verify elimination of measles and rubella are:
- the absence of endemic measles and rubella cases for a period of at least 12 months
- the presence of a high-quality surveillance system that is sensitive and specific enough to detect, confirm and classify all suspected cases
- genotyping evidence that supports the interruption of endemic transmission
Presenting the latest figures, PHE clarified that elimination means that measles is no longer native to the UK but it does not mean that measles has disappeared. “We continue to see measles cases, however further spread is limited and the chain of transmission in the population dies within a few weeks or months. This is only possible when MMR vaccine uptake in the community is very high and has remained high for many years,” the agency explained.
The official 2017 first-dose MMR vaccine uptake rate was 95.5 per cent, the highest rate so far this decade. However, uptake for the second-dose was 88.2 per cent.