Measles has been eliminated in UK, say global health leaders

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The "elimination" of measles has been achieved in the UK, global health leaders have said.

Elimination of measles or rubella can be verified once a country has sustained "interruption of endemic transmission" for at least 36 months, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The European Regional Verification Commission said the UK has achieved elimination status as of 2016 for measles.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: "We are delighted that the WHO has confirmed that the UK achieved measles elimination in 2016 and that rubella elimination continues to be sustained.

"In addition, national vaccine coverage of the first MMR dose in 5 year olds has hit the WHO 95% target.

"This is a huge achievement and a testament to all the hard work by our health professionals in the NHS to ensure that all children and adults are fully protected with two doses of the MMR vaccine.

"We need to ensure that this is sustained going forward by maintaining and improving coverage of the MMR vaccine in children and by catching up older children and young adults who missed out."

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness with a higher risk of serious complications for pregnant women, young children and those who are immuno-suppressed.

It commonly causes a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat and a distinctive rash.

The virus responsible for the infection is usually cleared from the body within 14 days. But in rare cases it spreads to the brain, where it can lie dormant for years - sometimes decades.