July 14, 2024

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UK Warned To Expect A Likely Surge In Measles Encephalitis

  • Encephalitis is a rare complication of measles that can cause long term disability or death.
  • Experts warn that around ten thousand new cases of encephalitis could emerge in the UK during the current measles outbreak.
  • It is crucial that parents of children with measles are aware of encephalitis symptoms and seek urgent medical advice if they emerge.

Encephalitis International (EI), a leading global charity today warned that the UK should be primed for an imminent surge in cases of encephalitis, during the latest measles outbreak. Encephalitis is a life-threatening brain swelling disease which can be caused by measles.

If the 3.4 million children unprotected by measles[1] don’t vaccinate against it, around ten thousand new cases of encephalitis could emerge in the coming weeks and months – potentially resulting in around 1500 deaths.[2]

The charity is urging parents and carers of children with measles to seek urgent medical assistance if they spot the tale-tell signs of encephalitis which include drowsiness, confusion, and seizures. The charity is also calling all healthcare professionals in the UK and globally, to consider encephalitis when symptomatic patients present.

Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of Encephalitis International, (pictured above) explains: “Many people think that measles infection is a harmless childhood illness – it isn’t.  A measles infection for an unvaccinated child or adult can result in severe disease, leading to serious complications such as encephalitis, which can require hospital treatment and lead to long-term disability or death.[3]

It is crucial to seek urgent medical attention if anyone with measles develops symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion or seizures. Early detection and treatment of measles encephalitis is the key to better outcomes[4]”.

Encephalitis, which literally means ‘swelling of the brain’ is a rare but serious complication of measles that occurs when the virus enters the brain, causing inflammation and swelling. It can be life threatening and leave people with severe brain injuries.[5]

To learn more about encephalitis and access real life stories of living with the condition, visit www.encephalitis.info. Encephalitis International leads World Encephalitis Day on 22nd February every year and urges people to wear red on the day and use #Red4WED and #WorldEncephalitisDay on social media.


[1] NHS England » NHS launches catch up campaign for missed MMR vaccines

[2] Figures extrapolated using statistics from NHS England (ref.1) and Encephalitis International (ref. 6)

[3] Measles (who.int)

[4] Encephalitis – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

[5] What is encephalitis? – Encephalitis International