PARENTS are urged to make sure their children are protected with two doses of MMR vaccine following an outbreak of measles.

Two of the three confirmed cases reported to the Greater Manchester Health Protection Unit in the last week have links to a local playgroup.

Both cases are responding well to treatment at home, and information, advice and reassurance has been provided for staff and parents of children attending the group.

These are the first confirmed cases of measles in the whole of Greater Manchester this year.

Dr Kate Ardern, executive director of public health for Wigan said: "These cases prove that it is still vitally important for children to have both doses of MMR, which will give life-long protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

"These are potentially serious illnesses and we are advising parents that if their child has missed one or both doses of MMR, they should contact their GP to arrange vaccination."

The most effective protection against measles infection is full immunisation with two doses of MMR vaccine. They are normally given at 13 months and between the ages of three and four years.

Measles is an infectious viral illness that is spread by droplets in the air when infected people cough or sneeze. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, sore eyes and a rash that develops 3-4 days after the onset of illness, starting with the face and head and spreading down the body.

Parents who suspect that their child may have measles should not take them to their doctor or local hospital accident and emergency unit where they might risk passing on infection to other vulnerable children. They should first seek advice by ringing the surgery or NHS Direct, the 24-hour nurse-led telephone information service.

People are infectious from just before they become unwell to around four days after the onset of the rash. Those affected should stay off school or work for five days from the onset of the rash.