Community pharmacies are among the 'most likely' places to encounter a case of measles, NHS England (NHSE) has warned.

And staff have been instructed to 'take appropriate action' and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to 'stop onward transmission without delay', when dealing with patients with suspected measles.

This comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) last week declared a national incident based on rising cases of measles and outbreaks in the West Midlands and Yorkshire.

And NHSE is launching a catch-up campaign for children aged six to 11 who still require the MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccine.

In guidance published last week, NHSE said that people with measles were 'most likely to contact primary care first including general practice [and] community pharmacy'.

'Staff should know that any patients with fever and rash are potentially infectious and take appropriate action to stop onward transmission without delay, including PPE,' the guidance added.

And it said that face-to-face contact 'of any length', or 'more than 15 minutes in a small, confined area' was considered as exposure to the virus and would require follow-up.

The NHSE guidance also contains actions for screening, triage and management in a primary care setting.

UKHSA chief executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries has warned there is a ‘very real risk’ of the virus spreading in other towns and cities, beyond the outbreak in Birmingham, due to low vaccine uptake in some communities.

The national MMR vaccination invitation scheme will soon be expanded, with around one million children aged six to 11 who are missing their first or second MMR vaccination to be invited to receive it throughout February and March.

The scheme will be expanded further in the Midlands and London, where cases are high, to include around 1.2 million children and young adults aged 11 to 25.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister publication Pulse.

What PPE should be worn?

NHSE has said that staff should wear the following PPE when assessing or managing patients with confirmed or suspected measles:

  • single-use, disposable gloves
  • single-use, disposable apron (or gown if extensive splashing or spraying, or performing an aerosol generating procedure (AGP))
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
  • eye/face protection (goggles or visor)