Parents of children under five years old who have missed their MMR vaccinations will receive a reminder letter this week.
Mums and dads are being urged to vaccinate children as the region is hit by a spate of cases.
The outbreak, which originally focused in Birmingham and Solihull, has now become a West Midlands wide community issue with over 100 cases.
NHS England (West Midlands) and Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands are now urgently asking parents to arrange immunisation at their GP surgery.
PHE has written to all West Midlands GPs asking them to be on the alert for the symptoms of measles and to take the opportunity to immunise children and adults who may not have received two doses of the MMR vaccine.
Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands Lead Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, said: “Those affected are all recovering, but it’s important to understand measles can be a very serious illness and lead to severe complications, especially in people who are particularly vulnerable or have other health conditions.
"The current outbreak in the West Midlands has seen 51% of cases admitted to hospital.
“The misery caused by measles is entirely preventable.
"The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.
"The ages of people affected ranges from 3 months to 50 years, however the average age is 5 years – which is why it’s particularly important for parents to have their children vaccinated when offered.
"The first MMR vaccine is given when the child is 1 year old, with a booster at 3 years 4 months of age, so we are writing to those parents who have missed one or both of those appointments.
“If children and young adults have missed these vaccinations in the past, it’s important to take up the vaccine now from GPs, particularly in light of the rising number of cases in Birmingham and Solihull.
"Check your child’s Red Book to see if they’ve received MMR vaccinations as scheduled, or check with your GP surgery if you’re unsure.”
Dr Kiran Patel, Medical Director, NHS England (West Midlands) said: “Measles is an incredibly infectious disease that is why we are asking people not to go to their GP or A&E department if they suspect they or their child may have measles. Instead people should call their GP or NHS111 for advice.
"The West Midlands is continuing to see an increase in cases centred in the Birmingham and Solihull areas, and we are working hard to limit further spread by people with the infection, and by encouraging those without the full MMR protection to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands is working with NHS England (West Midlands), Birmingham City Council, Solihull Council and local NHS partners to make sure that anyone who needs an MMR vaccination is aware.
Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands, added: “Most of the recent cases we’ve seen had not received the required doses of the MMR vaccine.
"It is possible for anyone at any age to get measles, and the illness can be more severe in teenagers and adults than in young children, which is why we are trying to make sure anyone who has missed vaccinations get immunised as soon as possible.”
What are the early symptoms?
Measles starts with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after becoming infected. This is followed a few days later by the measles rash.
For most people, the illness lasts around seven to 10 days in total.
The initial symptoms of measles can include:
- a runny or blocked nose
- watery eyes
- swollen eyelids
- sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
- a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
- small greyish-white spots in the mouth (see below)
- aches and pains
- a cough
- loss of appetite
- tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy
What about spots in the mouth?
A day or two before the rash appears, many people with measles develop small greyish-white spots in their mouth.
Not everyone with measles has these spots, but if someone has them in addition to the other symptoms listed above or a rash, it's highly likely they have the condition.
The spots will usually last for a few days.
How can you tell if it is a measles rash?
A measles rash appears around two to four days after initial symptoms
Raised spots may join together to form blotchy patches
You'll usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.
- is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches
- usually first appears on the head or neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body
- is slightly itchy for some people
- can look similar to other childhood conditions, such as slapped cheek syndrome, roseola or rubella
- is unlikely to be caused by measles if the person has been fully vaccinated (had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine) or had measles before
When should you seek medical advice?
Contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child has measles, even if you're not completely sure.
It's best to phone before your visit, as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
You should also see your GP if you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you've not been fully vaccinated or haven't had the infection before – even if you don't have any symptoms yet.