Measles has been notifiable in England and Wales since 1940, and notifications varied between 160,000 and 800,000 cases per year, the peaks occurring in two-year cycles.
Before the introduction of measles vaccination in 1968, around 100 children a year in England and Wales died from the disease.
Measles notifications fell from 1968 until by the late 1980s, annual notifications had fallen to between just 50,000 and 100,000.
Following the introduction of MMR vaccine in October 1988 and the achievement of coverage levels in excess of 90%, notifications of measles fell progressively to the lowest levels since records began and the spread of measles was effectively halted by the mid-1990s.
However, 2006 saw an increase in the number of confirmed cases in the UK as whole and the first reported death from measles in the UK for 14 years. This increase continued throughout the following years, during 2012 there were 2,030 cases of confirmed measles in England and Wales with 118 in Wales.
Between November 2012 and July 2013, a large outbreak of measles occurred in Wales. The outbreak was centred around the Swansea area, but affected a number of other areas in Mid and West Wales. During the outbreak there were 447 cases of measles confirmed from the Mid and West Wales area, 64 cases were admitted to hospital and there was one death.
The outbreak was a consequence of low historic levels of MMR vaccination uptake in the area, temporally associated with media reports of MMR side-effects which have since been proven to be unfounded and inaccurate.
During a catch-up campaign which was implemented in 2013 in response to the outbreak more than 77,000 doses of MMR vaccine were given and this has reduced the potential for further outbreaks of this size in Wales. Analysis of data from this outbreak found that a two dose course of MMR vaccine was 99% effective in protecting against measles.
Since the outbreak in 2012/13, there has been a decrease in the number of cases of measles in Wales, although cases and smaller outbreaks have still occurred.
In 2016 there were 52 confirmed cases of measles in England in Wales linked to music and arts festivals between June and October.
|Year||Number of cases||Rate per 100,000 population|
|Quarter||Number of cases in 2017||% of 2017 year total||Number of cases in 2018||% of 2018 year total||Number of cases in 2019||% of 2019 year total||Number of cases in 2020||% of 2020 year total||Number of cases in 2021||% of 2021 year total|
Measles is one of a number of notifiable diseases. Doctors in Wales have a statutory duty to notify a 'Proper Officer' of the Local Authority of suspected cases of measles based on clinical symptoms, usually before diagnosis has been confirmed by laboratory testing. Reported notifications of measles usually far exceed the actual numbers of confirmed cases. Other rashes are often mistaken for measles.
Salivary samples are requested from all patients in Wales (and England) with suspected measles if confirmation hasn't been obtained by other means (i.e. a hospital blood test if the patient is an in-patient). Salivary samples are sent to UKHSA in Colindale for confirmation of measles infection.
These are the data that are used to produce the trends graph and accompanying data tables on this website.
It should be noted that during the measles outbreaks in 2009 and 2012/13 in Wales virological confirmation through laboratory testing was not undertaken for all clinically presumed measles cases.
Measles can be prevented by a highly effective and safe vaccine. This is part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunisation with a first dose at around 13 months and a second dose (booster) around three and a half years. Young adults and teenagers who have missed out on MMR vaccination as children are also encouraged to get immunised.
A complete course of the two doses will protect over 95% of children against measles, mumps and rubella.
The uptake of MMR (and other childhood) vaccination in Wales is recorded in the COVER (Coverage of Vaccination Evaluation Rapidly) report. This is published on both a quarterly and annual basis.
More information about the MMR vaccine.