Doctors have been urged to “think measles” when treating children after a “devastating resurgence of virtually eliminated life-threatening diseases”.

Leading children’s doctors said that many medics will have never come across the disease before and have launched an awareness campaign to help clinicians spot symptoms and remind them what to do if they diagnose a case.

For the first time in decades, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has issued national guidance on the treatment of measles.

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The RCPCH has urged medics to use “every opportunity” to check a child’s vaccination status and offer the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jab to those who have not had two doses. The organisation has also issued guidance on how to treat measles. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects children. It's characterised by symptoms like a fever, cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes and a distinctive red rash that spreads over the body.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH president, said: “Having to consider measles in our national guidance for the first time in decades is a disappointing but necessary move. Vaccination coverage for children under the age of five is now the lowest it has ever been in the past 10 years.

“We are already starting to see the effects of this with measles outbreaks occurring in London, Wales and Leicester."

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of immunisation at UKHSA, said: “Measles can be a serious infection that can lead to complications, especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems, and tragically for some it can be fatal. Measles spreads very easily and the virus will find and attack those who aren’t protected, but is easily prevented with two jabs, free on the NHS whatever your age.

“Due to longstanding sub-optimal vaccine uptake, there is now a very real risk of seeing more outbreaks across the country with London most at risk. Any interventions that will help catch up those children who have missed out on either one or both jabs are welcome.

“Nobody wants to see their child or loved ones sick with measles, or put others who are more vulnerable, like babies, at risk. I urge those who have missed their MMR vaccines to catch-up now.”

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