Wales is at the centre of the largest outbreak of measles in the UK for over a decade. Centred in the Swansea area, the outbreak has hit well over 1000 people since November 2012, with over 85 patients hospitalised.
As a teacher-practitioner at Cardiff University School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, it is particularly worrying to hear of a confirmed case of measles at Cardiff University. Measles is of course highly contagious anyway, but it could spread particularly quickly in a closed community like the university.
I have urged my students and colleagues to ensure that they are up-to-date with their immunisations as a matter of urgency. Immunisation is not just for the students own safety and that of their peers, but also to demonstrate personal professionalism as emerging pharmacists. Discussion surrounding the current concerns over the measles outbreak during workshops with students has been particularly useful to highlight the role of the pharmacist in such a crisis.
My own professional responsibility in light of the measles outbreak has become increasingly apparent during my regular role as a community pharmacist. Many of my patients, particularly concerned parents have been to the pharmacy to seek advice and reassurance. They have lots of questions: am I eligible for the MMR? Should I get re-vaccinated? Am I at greater risk because of my long-term conditions or my work? Are single jabs as effective as the combined MMR? I realise that I have a vital role to play in giving appropriate advice to my patients and have undertaken further leaning on Measles as a part of my CPD to ensure that my knowledge is both up to date and accurate. This gives me the confidence to advise my patients and hopefully alleviate any potential concerns.
I have ensured that I know exactly what services are available in the locality of my branch so that I am able to signpost my patients appropriately and can also advise them on up-to-date sources of accurate information should they wish to read more about the issue. I have taken this opportunity to talk to patients about other related issues and in particular to communicate the message that vaccination is the right course of action for most people.
An outbreak of a potentially fatal disease is obviously worrying, particularly since it is likely to spread further before it is contained. This outbreak does however give us as pharmacists a vital opportunity to demonstrate how we can help support our patients and to further promote good public health.
Details of the current outbreak and FAQs on measles and MMR can be found on the PHW web-page at: http://www.publichealthwales.wales.nhs.uk/
More information for health professions is available at: http://www.wcppe.org.uk/learning/public-health-updates