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Health / Measles alert issued after ferry sailing

Passengers on a northbound journey in early October have been contacted by the NHS

NorthLink ferry terminal. Chris Cope/Shetland News

PASSENGERS on a NorthLink ferry sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick earlier this month have been approached by the NHS amid concerns they may have come in contact with someone who was later diagnosed with measles.

The public health alert was issued by NHS Grampian following the boat trip which left Aberdeen in the evening of 7 October.

NHS Grampian and NHS Shetland confirmed in a joint statement that the two health boards were working with partners to investigate a single case of measles in an adult from Perth and Kinross, with links to Aberdeen and Shetland.

The health board have advised passengers on the boat that night to be “aware of the symptoms and signs of measles and the action to take if you become ill”.

The NHS says that measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications, although the effectiveness of vaccination has greatly reduced its prevalence in the UK.

Symptoms include fever, lethargy, a runny nose, conjunctivitis, a cough and a red, blotchy rash which starts at the head and spreads over the chest and limbs.

People with measles are infectious for around five days before the rash appears and until around four days after it appears.

Passengers are advised that if they develop symptoms then they should phone their GP to avoid sitting in a waiting room.

People who were on the boat deemed at a greater risk of measles have been asked to contact health services as soon as possible as they may require immediate treatment.

Vulnerable groups include pregnant women, babies under 12 months and people who have weakened immune systems, due to the likes of illness or treatment such as chemotherapy or steroids.

Doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are usually given out after a child’s first birthday and also before school age.

NHS Grampian said people already vaccinated with two doses are unlikely to need further action, unless they develop symptoms.

Passengers were also advised that if they are unsure if they have completed two doses of the MMR vaccine they should contact their GP practice to find out.

In 2016 the World Health Organisation declared that the UK was measles free, but the country lost that status earlier this year following a rise in cases.

In a joint statement, NHS Grampian and NHS Shetland said: “Measles is a highly infectious viral illness which causes a range of symptoms including fever, coughing, and distinctive red-brown spots.

“The infection is easily spread and you can catch measles through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when they cough or sneeze.

“Measles is most common among young children, but anyone who has not been fully immunised can catch it.

“The safest and most effective way of preventing measles is the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are required to ensure full protection.

“We would encourage everyone to make sure their vaccinations are up to date. It’s never too late to get vaccinated. You can check with your GP practice to find out what vaccinations you may be eligible for.”

More information about measles is available on the NHS Inform website.