HEALTH experts have launched an investigation after an outbreak of measles among children and young adults in County Durham and Darlington.

Officials from the Health Protection Agency and NHS County Durham and Darlington are working together to tackle the outbreak, which has largely affected people who were not immunised against the illness.

To date, 17 confirmed and 17 suspected cases of measles have been reported in young people across County Durham and Darlington.

Dr Deb Wilson, from the Health Protection Agency, said: “A small number of these children attended school while infectious and as a precautionary measure we have issued advice to these schools about the symptoms of measles to look out for.

“We are also encouraging parents in the area to check their child’s vaccinations are up to date for their age. As part of the childhood immunisation programme the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given at 12 to 13 months and a second dose at three years, four months.”

Measles is potentially a very serious illness, which can on rare occasions be fatal. It is highly infectious and is spread through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

There is no treatment for measles, but it can be prevented by the MMR vaccine.

Dr Wilson added: “It’s never too late to get your child vaccinated. Whichever vaccines children have already received, if they have missed out on MMR in the past it’s always possible for them to catch-up.”

Anyone who is concerned about a sick child should contact their GP or NHS Direct on 0845-46-47. People in County Durham and Darlington can also call 111.