Parents in Sheffield are being urged to make sure their children are immunised against measles to prevent an outbreak of the virus here.
The advice has been issued by public health authorities following concerns over the spread of the illness in other parts of the country.
Nationally, measles cases are at their highest level for 18 years, and so far this year there have been six confirmed cases in Sheffield, compared to five for the whole of 2012.
The South Yorkshire Health Protection Team, part of the Government’s new Public Health England body, says parents should be aware of the virus’ symptoms, and check that their children are up to date with their MMR - measles, mumps and rubella - injections.
People affected by the highly-contagious condition should not go to A&E or their doctor’s surgery - instead, they should ring their GP to make arrangements to visit without risking infecting others.
A spokeswoman for the health protection team said: “Currently in Sheffield, we are not seeing an increase in measles cases on a scale seen in other parts of the UK.
“But, once measles begins to circulate in communities, the illness spreads very easily and that is why it is important for families to check their children are up to date with their MMR immunisations, particularly at the current time.
“Despite the increases elsewhere, measles is now relatively rare because the vaccination protects against it.
“Those who have not had a jab, or who have had only one dose, can still be vulnerable.”
She said it was important that children receive two doses of the vaccine. Controversy surrounded the injection in the 1990s after it was wrongly linked to autism and bowel cancer.
“This is a highly effective, safe vaccine,” she added. “Vaccination can be given later on if missed at scheduled ages. If you’re planning a pregnancy and you have not had measles, you should arrange to have the jab before becoming pregnant.
“If you catch measles when pregnant, it can be passed on to the unborn child, which can be harmful and even fatal for the baby.
“It is very important that anyone affected by symptoms stays at home until at least five days after the rash starts, to avoid infecting others.”
In a serious epidemic in South Wales more than 800 cases have so far been reported.
SPOTTING THE SYMPTOMS OF MEASLES
The initial signs of measles include cold-like symptoms, red eyes, fever and pale spots in the mouth and throat.
After a few days, a red-brown spotty rash will appear. This usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around the head and neck before affecting the legs and the rest of the body.
The first MMR vaccination is given to babies aged between 12 and 13 months, and the second dose is given before children reach school age, usually around three-and-a-half years. Babies under the age of one are more vulnerable to the measles infection as they are too young to have had immunisation. Parents should speak to their GP to book an injection.