Several children at Yeo Valley Primary School in Barnstaple are suspected of having contracted measles, according the Health Protection Agency.
Earlier this week, the HPA said The Park Community School had three suspected cases. However, only one has now been confirmed as measles. There are now a further ten suspected cases across Yeo Valley Primary School and Braunton Academy.
Doctors have sent a letter to all schools to be given to parents, advising them that immunisation is the most effective way of reducing the risk of contracting the disease.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health for Devon, said, "We know that the measles virus is circulating in North Devon and so far the people affected have not been immunised or only partially immunised with the MMR vaccine."
"Measles can spread quickly and easily, especially in close knit communities such as schools and community facilities which is why it is so important that children are properly immunised."
Dr. Mark Kealy, Health Protection Agency South West (South) said, "Measles is potentially a very serious illness which can be fatal in certain groups with suppressed immunity like newborn babies, pregnant women (and the unborn baby), persons with leukaemia, HIV/AIDS or patients on cancer and organ transplant drugs."
"We want to encourage parents in these communities to ensure their children are up to date with MMR vaccinations. By getting your children immunised you will protect them and other more vulnerable people in the community who could become seriously ill if they catch the disease."
"Measles should not be taken lightly as you can never tell when you have passed it on to someone in whom it would cause serious, maybe fatal, disease.
"It is important to remember that measles isn't a "harmless" childhood disease for some and this is why we are urging parents to make sure that their children are fully immunised and have had both doses of the MMR vaccine.
"It is never too late to get your child vaccinated. If they've missed out on MMR in the past it's always possible for them to catch-up. Just contact your local GP."
Parents have also been advised that if their child exhibits symptoms of measles it is very important to take the following steps to prevent spreading the disease to others:
•Please keep your child away from school, and away from others, for five days from when the rash first appeared.
•You should also avoid them coming into contact with other persons who may be particularly vulnerable. The risk of very serious illness/death is especially greater in persons including unborn babies of pregnant women, newborn babies, persons with HIV/AIDS, leukaemia and those on cancer drugs.
•It is also very important not to go to your GP practice with a child who has measles. If you do you risk passing on the infection to others in the waiting room. If your child has symptoms of the disease please telephone your GP surgery in the first instance.
More information about measles
Measles is an infectious viral illness that is spread by droplets in the air when infected people cough or sneeze. The following symptoms are commonly seen in measles infection:
•Sore and watering eyes
•Widespread rash that develops 3-4 days after the onset of the illness, starting with the face and head and spreading down the body.
Although most people will get over measles without too many problems, a significant number will develop complications including ear infection, diarrhoea, pneumonia or meningitis.
Complications are more likely in those who have a weakened immune system or in infants under the age of 1 year. Measles can also cause problems in pregnancy. People in these categories who are recent contacts of a definite case of measles and who are not immune may be offered vaccination.
Since the introduction of measles vaccine, and especially since the introduction of MMR vaccine in 1988, numbers of cases have reduced to low levels.
More information about measles is available from the Health Protection Agency website at : http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/measles/background.htm
More information about the MMR vaccine is available from the NHS Immunisation website at: http://www.immunisation.nhs.uk/Vaccines/MMR and at www.nhs.uk