THE number of confirmed and suspected measles cases in the region have risen, according to new figures.

Since the beginning of September 2012, when the numbers started increasing, 63 confirmed cases and 63 suspected cases of the illness have now been reported, according to the Health Protection Agency in the North-East.

This is an increase of seven confirmed and 14 suspected cases on the previous week.

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The majority of cases in the outbreak continue to be in unvaccinated school children and young adults aged between 10 and 30 years.

Julia Waller, spokeswoman for the HPA in the North-East, said: "Measles is highly infectious and unvaccinated children and adults who haven't had it before are at risk when it is circulating, as it is now in this region.

"Furthermore, if they become ill with measles they could also be a risk to people who are not able to be immunised, such as babies who are too young to be vaccinated."

"There is no treatment for measles but it can be prevented by the MMR vaccine and two doses are required to ensure the best protection. That's why we're urging parents to make sure that their children are fully immunised and have had two doses of the jab."

The viral illness begins with a fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. This is followed with a rash that starts on the face and spreads down the upper body, extending to the arms, hands, legs and feet.

To prevent spreading the illness, the HPA is advising people with symptoms to stay away from school, nursery or work until at least four full days have elapsed after the development of a rash.

You should also avoid contact with pregnant women, people with weak immune systems and babies.