Health officials are calling on the British public to check they are up-to-date with MMR vaccinations after a sharp rise in measles cases in London and the South-East.

According to Public Health England, since the beginning of February 20 cases of the disease have been confirmed across London (12 cases) and the East of England, which is on the high side given that the number of cases in England in 2015 was 91.

The cases are predominantly unimmunised adolescents and young adults (aged 14 to 40 years), many of whom have been hospitalised.

In 2013 more than 1,200 people in Wales were infected with the virus, and while experts believe an outbreak of such magnitude is still unlikely at this stage, a significant spike in cases is possible.

Consequently, PHE Officials are now advising the public to check vaccinations and also be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles - sore red eyes, a high temperature or a red-brown blotchy rash - which can lead to serious complications.

“If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention, but be sure to phone ahead before you visit your GP surgery so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected,” noted Kevin Brown, PHE’s deputy director of the Virus Reference Department.

Scarlet fever on the rise

Meanwhile, PHE has also warned of an increase in cases of scarlet fever across England, with a total of 6,157 new cases since the season began in September 2015.

Around 600 cases are being notified each week at present with further increases expected as we reach the peak season, which typically occurs between late March and mid April.

While symptoms usually clear up after a week, there are also more potentially serious complications linked with the disease, including include ear infection, throat abscess and pneumonia. 

Patients who do not show signs of improvement within a few days of starting treatment should seek urgent medical advice, officials stressed.