Measles on the rise as vaccinations fall in the UK, Science study reports

Outbreaks of measles in England and Wales have increased following a decline in infant vaccinations against the viral disease. A continued decline in vaccinations may lead to increasingly large outbreaks of measles and the possibility of its reappearance as a self-sustaining or endemic disease in the United Kingdom. These findings appear in the 08 August issue of the journal Science published by AAAS, the science society.

The authors used data on recent outbreaks in England and Wales to demonstrate a recent trend toward larger sized measles outbreaks in the United Kingdom. They report that the measure of the spreading ability of measles, its "reproductive number," is increasing. As the rates of early childhood vaccination have dipped, the reproductive number is rising to approach the point where outbreaks in the U.K. population may not simply fizzle out.

"My hope is that this is a warning signal for the parents," said Vincent Jansen, the first author on the paper, a Wellcome Trust researcher from Royal Holloway, University of London in Egham, Surrey in the United Kingdom.

"We are approaching the danger zone where measles could once again become an endemic disease in the United Kingdom. We are not yet there, but it may be going that way," said Jansen.

"We are reporting a correlation between the drop in vaccinations and the increasing size of measles outbreaks. Of course the coincidence is suggestive of a causative connection, but we can not draw this conclusion from our data," Jansen explained.

However, they do conclude that the reproductive number has increased; and they quantified this increase.

The reproductive number is the average number of new infections that an infected person causes. The authors report that the reproductive number rose from a value of 0.47 for the years 1995-1998 to a value of 0.82 for the years from 1999-2002. They came to this conclusion after comparing the distribution of outbreak sizes befo

Contact: Daniel Kane
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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