PARENTS across North Devon are being urged to ensure their children have received all doses of the MMR vaccination, as fears of a national measles epidemic grow.
The message comes in response to the current outbreak in South Wales, which has seen nearly 1,000 people struck down with the viral infection.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon's Director of Public Health, said that while immunisation levels in Devon were generally high, complacency was dangerous.
She said: "There are pockets across the county where immunisation levels are low.
"This not only increases the chances of children contracting the disease, but also exposes them to the potential risks of serious complications resulting from it."
The crisis is part of the long term legacy of the now discredited 1998 Wakefield report, which incorrectly linked the joint vaccination with autism.
Dr Pearson said: "The combined MMR is a proven safe and effective way to immunise children from measles, mumps and rubella, and we would encourage anyone who has not already, to make sure their children have been vaccinated."
The MMR vaccine is offered in two doses, the first between 12 to 13 months old and the second before the child starts school. The second dose provides increased protection, with less than 1 per cent of children remaining at risk after having it.
Dr Pearson said: "Anyone who is unsure whether or not they have been vaccinated can check with their GP surgery.
"At any age, vaccination will still provide the same immunity to this serious disease, and offers protection to the child and their community."
The infection is easily spread through nearby contact, and can be identified through a number of cold-like symptoms – as well as red eyes and sensitivity to light, a fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.
After a few days a red-brown spotty rash will appear.
Children who exhibit these symptoms are advised to be kept away from public places and the vulnerable for five days after the appearance of the rash.
Parents who believe their child is suffering from the illness are advised to contact their GP.