July 10, 2008

Living With Legacy of Measles

By Anne Johns

A Magazine editor facing deafness as a result of childhood measles has urged parents to protect their children against the disease.

Jenny Hopkins, who edits Active Kids Magazine, a what's-on guide for parents, has been gradually losing her hearing since contracting measles as a youngster and has been warned that it will eventually go completely.

She has spoken out in the wake of a recent study in London which claimed that any measles epidemic could affect up to 10,000 people because of low inoculation rates.

The vaccinations were not available when Mrs Hopkins, of Cranmer Street, Long Eaton, caught measles as a three-year-old in the early 1960s. She said: "I had measles badly enough to be hospitalised, and it was the severe ear infection as a complication of the measles that damaged my hearing."

The seriousness of the damage to her hearing became apparent during her early school years.

Tests revealed she had been relying on lip-reading and that her hearing was significantly impaired, making lessons hard to follow.

Her school years were plagued by earache, ear infections and hearing problems.

The mother-of-two said: "I always had to sit at the front in class, and grew more dependent on lip-reading to get me through."

Her hearing difficulties, however, did not prevent her gaining a degree and overcoming initial workplace problems to become a successful businesswoman.

She said: "Working in an office, for example, I had no idea which phone was ringing, or who was speaking unless I was able to see their face. And being so dependent on lip-reading, I seemed rude to people as I had to stare at their faces."

She was fitted with two hearing aids, but her hearing continued to deteriorate and she has now lost about 70% of it.

She said: "I don't feel a victim but many things would've been easier if I wasn't hard of hearing."

She has successfully run Active Kids for six years and has vowed to continue to do so.

Doctors cannot say when Mrs Hopkins' hearing will go completely, but she knows that she will become increasingly dependent on specialist mechanical aids and machines, as well as very understanding colleagues, to beat her difficulties.

The measles vaccine was introduced in 1968 and was replaced by the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine in 1988.

Speaking before the Health and Public Services Committee, Dr Simon Tanner, regional director of Public Health London and health adviser to the Greater London Assembly last week said failure to give MMR jabs to children meant the city could face five-figure outbreak casualties.

Mrs Hopkins said: "From my own experience I would urge all parents to go for MMR. Any risks, real or imaginary, are greatly outweighed by the risks of measles."

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