Measles symptoms: Four early symptoms to watch out for as cases soar across Europe

Measles cases increased a huge 400 per cent in Europe last year, with large outbreaks affecting one in four countries, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest data. 

With the surge of measles cases, the United Nations agency have voiced their concerned by low rates of immunisation against the disease. 

There were more than 21,000 cases and 35 deaths last year - a stark contrast to 2016 which saw a record low, with just 5,273 cases in Europe. 

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe. 

She added: “Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply cannot accept.”

Measles can be very unpleasant but will usually pass in around seven to 10 days. 

But the highly contagious illness can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications in some people. 

These include infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and brain (encephalitis). 

How can you spot measles? 

  • The NHS lists the following four symptoms as early signs: 
  • Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough 
  • Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light 
  • A high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F) 
  • Small greyish-white spots not he inside of the cheeks

A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. 

This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body. 

When should you see your GP?

The health body says: “You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles. 

“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 (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven’t had the infection before - even if you don’t have any symptoms.”

Last month, Public Health England (PHE) warned that there were measles cases in several regions of England: Sussex, West Midlands, Surrey, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire. Parents were urged to get their children vaccinated if they had not done so. 

PHE said anyone who had visited Romania, Germany or Italy might be particularly at risk.

What are the best treatment for the rash and are you protected by the MMR vaccine?