Public Health England has said there have been outbreaks of measles across the country in recent weeks, including 11 in Surrey since mid-December.

Here’s the NHS advice on what to look out for and what you can do.

It’s highly infectious

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and can sometimes lead to serious complications.

Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t had it before, although it’s most common in young children.

Symptoms develop around 10 days after you’re infected

These can include cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough. It can also include sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light, a high temperature which may reach around 40C (104F) and small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks. A few days later a red blotchy rash will appear which usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

Recovery takes a while

Measles can be unpleasant, but will usually pass in about 7 to 10 days without causing any further problems.

Once you have had measles your body builds up resistance to the virus and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get it again.

How it is spread

The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes as you can easily catch measles by breathing in these droplets or if the the droplets have settled on a surface. The virus can survive on surfaces for a few hours.

There are ways to prevent the virus

Your best course of action is to have the measles,mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is given in two doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

The first dose is given when a child is 13 months old and a second dose is given before your child starts school.

Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven’t been fully vaccinated before and you should ask your GP about having it.

If the MMR vaccine isn’t suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if your at immediate risk of catching measles.

Treating it

There are several things you can do to help relieve the symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection which include taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains, drinking plenty of water, closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity, using damp cotton wool to clean the eyes and it has been advised to stay off school or work for at least four days from when a rash appears.

How common is it

Measles is common in many countries around the world and there are currently several large measles outbreaks across Europe.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE(Public Health England) said: “The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.

“This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at 3 years and 4 months of age. Children and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had 2 doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up.”