March saw the highest number of measles cases yet this year as the outbreak continues to spread around the country.

The latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency showed there were 299 laboratory confirmed cases of measles in March.

This is higher than the 274 cases seen in January when officials declared a national incident after a large outbreak in the West Midlands.

In all 1,109 cases have been confirmed in England since October, said health officials who remain concerned about the spread of the highly infectious disease.

The large outbreak in Birmingham that had been responsible for most cases has now stabilised but in more recent weeks, clusters of infections have been reported in London, UKHSA said.

In the four weeks since 18 March a further 191 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported with 40% of them in London, the figures show.

The West Midlands still accounts for a quarter of cases with another 12% in the East Midlands.

Almost two thirds of measles infections have been in children aged 10 years and under, and 29% in young people and adults aged 15 years and over, the figures show.

NHS vaccine catch up campaigns have been targeting areas where people are most at risk of measles including children and young adults who were not vaccinated when they were younger.

A public information campaign has also been launched in a bid to ‘urgently’ reverse the decline in uptake of childhood vaccinations in general.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist, said numbers rising across the country with a particular rise seen in London in recent weeks.

‘We know some communities in London have very low MMR vaccination rates. Measles is extremely infectious and it only takes one case to get into these communities for this disease to spread rapidly, especially in schools and nurseries.

She added that many thousands of children around the country are still not fully vaccinated and may be at risk of serious illness or life-long complications.

‘Parents should check their child’s Red Book now to ensure that children are up to date with the MMR and other routine vaccines. If you’re unsure, contact your GP practice to check.’

Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP in London and professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said the figures show how infectious measles is.

He added: ‘London was always likely to have the greatest number of measles cases in the UK because of its large population, high population density and low MMR vaccine uptake.

‘The London measles outbreak shows the importance of ensuring that children and young adults are fully vaccinated.

‘Measles is a serious illness with a high risk of complication. All areas of London are offering catch up MMR vaccinations and anyone who is not fully vaccinated or unsure of their vaccination status (or is the parent of a child in this category) should come forwards for vaccination.’

This article first appeared on our sister title Pulse.