“Measles is a highly infectious disease. In fact it is one of the most contagious respiratory pathogens known, and can cause severe complications and even death in some individuals.
“Vaccination has, thankfully, proven extremely effective in taming the impact of this nasty pathogen, particularly in the UK where traditionally high vaccination rates meant very few cases were seen, until recently.
“An outbreak in Merseyside during 2012 and the current epidemic in south Wales remind us how easily near-extinct infections can take hold within pockets of susceptibility.
“The dynamics of behavioural response to outbreaks is the subject of a lot of contemporary research. We may expect to see many health related behaviours, such as vaccine uptake or symptom reporting, change as awareness and perceived risk increases in the community, partly driven by news reporting, but also through other communication media.
“In the case of the South Wales outbreaks, opening special clinics offering vaccination are an excellent organisational response to increased awareness-driven demand.
“One other factor that may delay an effective healthcare response would be misdiagnosis: GPs unused to seeing measles cases due to its previous scarcity would (quite reasonably) have difficulty in quickly and correctly identifying cases, until broader awareness spread within the medical community.
“The possible interplay between the spread of infectious disease and the contagion of awareness and risk of the disease are hot research topics at the moment.”