Got your underwear, bed sheets and vaccination? Why freshers could help eliminate measles

John Edmunds, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling and Dean of Faculty of Epidemiology & Population

It’s the time of year when hundreds of thousands of teenagers are beginning an exciting new chapter in their lives. Freshers’ week will see friendships fostered for life, but for some unfortunate students it will also mean experiencing something not quite as welcome. Close contact between large groups of young adults is the perfect breeding ground for infectious disease. Perhaps surprisingly, measles is one of them.

Fifty years ago measles affected virtually every child in the world. In the UK alone this resulted in hundreds of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths every year – even today about one in 2000 reported measles cases results in a death.

The US introduced measles vaccination in the mid 1960s – almost certainly one of the most effective and cost-effective medical interventions of all time. European countries followed shortly afterwards – Russia in 1967, the UK in 1968 and the Netherlands in 1976.

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