There are currently three outbreaks of measles being monitored by public health officials in Hertfordshire, councillors have been told.

Officials from the NHS, councils and the voluntary sector have been meeting weekly since May, in order to respond to the rising cases in Hertfordshire and West Essex.

At the latest meeting of the county council’s public health and community safety cabinet panel (June 26), councillors were told of the current situation.

They heard that nationally, since late 2023, there had been a “rapid increase” in cases of measles – initially driven by a large outbreak in Birmingham.

Although that initial outbreak had now “stabilised”, they heard that in more recent weeks there had been a rise in cases in London – with smaller clusters in other regions and cases “picking up” in Hertfordshire.

In total it was reported that there have been 29 confirmed cases of the disease in Hertfordshire, since October last year (2023) – accounting for 39 per cent of all cases in the East of England.

Councillors heard there were currently three small ‘outbreaks’ in the county – two in primary schools and one at a pre-school.

Councillors were told there were “relatively small” numbers involved in the Hertfordshire outbreaks, involving two to five children – with the average age of the children being four years old.

At the meeting it was reported that one in 15 people with measles can become seriously unwell – with one in five requiring hospitalisation.

Public health officials highlighted the importance of the MMR vaccination – which includes the vaccine for measles.

Hertfordshire is below the national target for MMR uptake - which is 95 per cent, making the county’s population “vulnerable”, given the proximity to areas where there are currently a large number of cases.

Data presented to councillors showed that across the Hertfordshire at the end of December (2023) the take-up rate for the second dose of the MMR vaccine was 88.2 per cent. 

While it's higher than the national take-up rate of 84.3 per cent, it’s still significantly below the national target.

Take-up rates for the second dose across the county are: North Herts (90.95 per cent); St Albans (88.26 per cent); Stevenage (88.1 per cent); Welwyn Hatfield (85.85 per cent); Three Rivers (85.03 per cent); Hertsmere (83.43 per cent); Watford (82.25 per cent).

At the meeting Hertfordshire’s head of health protection Geraldine Bruce said vaccinations generally had decreased as a result of the pandemic, but there was a “really promising small uptick” in vaccination rates.

A total of 74 cases (four per cent) have been recorded in the East of England region – with 29 of those in Hertfordshire