PARENTS of children at a Gwent secondary school who are not protected against measles have been sent letters urging them to organise MMR vaccinations, after a case of the virus was reported among the pupils.

The single case of measles has been confirmed at Cwmcarn High School by Public Health Wales.

The school is understood to have a fairly high MMR coverage, and its website states that letters are being sent "to the parents of the small number of children who have not had a course of the MMR vaccine."

But measles is highly infectious and is generally spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes.

It is recommended that children have two doses of MMR vaccination - normally given by the time a child begins school - to provide the best possible protection against not only measles, but mumps and rubella.

Measles carries the risk of a range of complications, including dehydration, ear infections, pneumonia, chest infection, diarrhoea, and in rare (around one-in-500) cases, permanent brain damage.

Early symptoms include a high temperature, cough, conjunctivitis (painful, red eyes), and sometimes small white spots inside the mouth.

Three or four days later, a red, blotchy rash appears, usually on the face at first, and spreading over the rest of the body.

Parents whose children develop these symptoms, and who are concerned they might have measles, should keep them off school until advised that they can return, and anyone needing to consult their GP are being asked to let the practice know that it might be a case of measles.

Measles has had a high profile this year, due to the outbreak in Swansea, the UK's biggest for more than a decade, and which resulted in more than 1,200 cases being recorded from late 2012 into June this year.

The majority of these were in Swansea, where the outbreak originated, and the surrounding area. But 130 cases were reported in Gwent, several times the number here for the whole of 2012.

General information on measles can be had from Public Health Wales at, or from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.