HAMPSHIRE parents are being warned of the dangers of not getting their children vaccinated following an outbreak of rubella across the county.

Latest figures have revealed that there have been 14 confirmed cases of the potentially dangerous infection in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight between January and July this year – compared to none during the same period in 2011.

Although the infection can easily be prevented by youngsters receiving their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jabs, if caught it can be dangerous, particularly to pregnant women, causing rubella-associated miscarriages and birth defects.

Rubella is a viral infection that is spread in a similar way as a cold and will normally pass within seven to 10 days. But it becomes serious if a pregnant woman catches the infection during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy as it can disrupt the development of the baby, causing congenital rubella syndrome which could include cataracts, deafness, heart abnormalities and brain damage.

It is believed the outbreak has been caused by a dip in the number of children getting vaccinated, forcing health bosses to urge parents into action.

To reduce the risk of such outbreaks, health bosses aim to get 95 per cent of three-year-olds vaccinated but between January and March this year, only 89 per cent in Hampshire and 91 per cent in Southampton received their pre-school booster MMR jab.

Parents are being asked to speak with their health visitors for advice about vaccinations and arrange for their child to get their jabs at their local surgery.

Dr Ruth Milton, director of public health in Hampshire, said: “The uptake for MMR1 should be even better but we are most concerned about the MMR2 – the pre-school booster given after your child is three.

“Every child requires two doses of the vaccine to protect them from all three diseases. When we reach the 95 per cent target, we have herd immunity – where enough of the population is immunised to protect those that aren’t. “Parents have a really important role to play in this by making sure they get their children vaccinated when sent reminder letters.”