A MOTHER whose husband and two sons all had to be taken to hospital because of measles has urged others to get their children vaccinated.

Laura Daw, 23, from Eaglescliffe, near Stockton, said: "It is really hard watching your family suffer and not be able to do something. It is heartbreaking."

She made her appeal after the Health Protection Agency in the North-East confirmed a measles outbreak is under way in the region.

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So far 46 cases of this highly contagious and potentially serious viral illness have been confirmed in the region - with another 50 suspected cases.

Mrs Daws sons, John, three and David, four and husband, Karl, 23, have all been "very poorly" after contracting measles and all needed hospital treatment.

While her sons and husband are now recovering Mrs Daw said she regretted that the family had decided against having their two boys vaccinated against measles.

This was because the family were worried that the triple MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine had, in the past, been linked to causing autism.

That claim has now been firmly rejected by the medical authorities.

Ironically it was her husband, Karl, who was particularly opposed to having the jab.

"Karl was worried about other health risks but when I went to see him in hospital he said it was absolutely fine," said Mrs Daw, whose six month old daughter, Lily, who has not developed the illness, has been given a form of vaccination suitable for young babies.

The HPA has urged adults to check whether their children have had the two MMR jabs which are needed for maximum protection.

Dr Simon Stockley, a GP from the Eaglescliffe Medical Practice, the family's local surgery, said: "People have forgotten what measles was like. It is an unpleasant illness with some potentially very serious complications."

The GP added: "I am old enough to have seen a child die from measles. The research which led to these myths being put about has been shown to be flawed."

Measles is highly infections and is spread through contact with an infected person or through coughs and sneezes.

The illness begans with a fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by a rash that starts on the face and neck and then spreads.

While there is no treatment, anyone with measles is asked to stay away from school or work until at least four days after a rash has appeared.