Shock figures reveal cases of measles have shot up a third in the West Midlands from last year, with nearly 80 infections in less than a month.

Health Protection Agency officials urged parents to have children vaccinated with the Measles jab or combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination to halt risk of an epidemic.

Latest statistics show there were 79 from November 1 with clusters in Warwickshire, with 36, Worcestershire, 16, and Staffordshire, 11.

Dr Gillian Smith, regional immunisation lead for the Health Protection Agency in the West Midlands, said: “We are concerned by the growing numbers of measles cases and must do all we can to halt the spread of the disease by encouraging parents to immunise children.

“It’s worrying we potentially have over 70 cases of measles in the West Midlands recently – we estimate comparing it to November last year, cases are up a third. My fear is we will see further clusters in the region. Our priority is to improve Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination uptake rates. The only sure way for an individual to avoid measles is to have two doses of MMR vaccine, preferably by age five, but at any age if people have been previously unvaccinated.

“Most cases are among children so we, and colleagues in the NHS, are urging parents to ensure their children are adequately vaccinated.

“Measles is an unpleasant illness even in its mildest form. The complications as a result of measles can be severe, sometimes long-lasting, and on rare occasions can result in death. The safest way to avoid this is with two doses of the MMR vaccine. I would like to reassure parents the MMR is a safe and effective vaccine and is given to millions of children worldwide. Those children who have not been immunised are at risk.”

Children are given their first MMR vaccination at 13 months. A second dose should be given at three years and four months of age.

The national target is for 95 per cent of children to be immunised with their first MMR jab just after their first birthday, and a second jab for pre-school youngsters. But, in the region, the level of immunisation is below this national target at 87.7 per cent, causing more measles cases to emerge and spread. Low numbers of children being vaccinated is also believed to have been caused by controversial claims of a link to autism by Dr Andrew Wakefield in 1998.