U.K. measles outbreak hasn’t touched U.S. military community
July 10, 2006
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A measles outbreak hitting England recently has made no headway in the American military community stationed in the United Kingdom, RAF Lakenheath hospital officials said last week.
Due mainly to comprehensive vaccination requirements already in place for servicemembers and school children, the rush of nearly 450 cases of the contagious disease in the country this year has so far been repelled, said Lt. Col. Steven Hinten, public health flight commander for the hospital.
“We’re doing now what you would do [to prevent a threat] in the normal course of business,” Hinten said.
In the first five months of 2006, 449 cases of measles were confirmed in England and Wales, compared to just 77 cases in all of 2005, making it the most prolific year for the disease since the late 1980s, according to the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency.
The outbreak is on pace to be the biggest in the U.K. since the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination was introduced in 1988. The only recent year with similar levels of measles cases was in 2003, when 438 cases were reported.
The jump in measles cases has been linked by doctors to a drop in vaccinations among English citizens, which has in turn been linked to fears of side effects of the MMR shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta asserts that the shot has no long-term health effects.
In the American community here, there are only small sections of the population that may potentially be unvaccinated or not otherwise immune, such as dependents over the age 50, Hinten said.
But the vast majority, even young children attending British schools where MMR vaccination is not a prerequisite, have likely been vaccinated, he said.
The English outbreak follows a similar one in Germany, where more than 1,000 cases were reported earlier this year in an area just north of a major American military community. In that outbreak, too, the rash of cases did not make inroads into the U.S. population there, military medical personnel said.