More than 120 cases of measles have now been confirmed in outbreaks across England, including in south-east London.

Public Health England (PHE) said the current cases are linked to “ongoing large outbreaks” in Europe, and those who recently travelled to Romania, Italy and Germany without receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease which typically lasts up to 10 days and begins with cold-like symptoms and a measles rash. It can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia.

The MMR vaccine is a combined inoculation which protects against measles, mumps and rubella and is available to all adults and children who have not completed the course.

The full course requires two doses and anyone who is unsure of their vaccination status is encouraged to check with their GP.

The most recent updates show that, as of January 9, West Yorkshire had 34 confirmed cases, Cheshire and Liverpool had 29, there were 32 in the West Midlands, 20 in Surrey and seven in Greater Manchester.

In the last week, cases have been reported in Bromley, Croydon and Greenwich.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at one year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years and four months of age.

“Children and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch up.

“We’d also encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks.”

PHE said the overall risk of measles is low among the population, as the UK achieved World Health Organisation (WHO) elimination status in 2016, alongside Denmark and Spain.

This means the number of cases in the UK across a period of at least three years was low enough to prevent the disease spreading among the general population.

Dr Ramsay said: “The UK recently achieved WHO measles elimination status and so the overall risk of measles to the UK population is low, however due to ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe, we will continue to see cases in unimmunised individuals and limited onward spread can occur in communities with low MMR coverage and in age groups with very close mixing.”

The NHS advises anyone who suspects they, or their child, might have measles to contact their GP. Here is their advice on what to look out for:

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.