A mother has urged parents to give their children the MMR jab after her twin daughters caught measles.

Zoe Hayes said she was shocked at how ill the virus made her twins Niambh and Maisy Dale, aged five, and now bitterly regrets refusing the vaccine.

She rejected it due to worries about unsubstantiated claims that the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism.

Miss Hayes said: “I didn’t have their vaccinations done when they were younger.

“It was because of the bad publicity. I just want people to know if I had my time again I would give them the injection.

“If I could turn back the clock I would 100 per cent have it done. They are really poorly. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Miss Hayes, of Norton, Worcester, said the Norton-juxta-Kempsey CE First School pupils were initially diagnosed with a chest infection last Monday.

When they didn’t improve, she returned to the GP on Wednesday and was told they had viral flu.

She said: “On Thursday I heard my 11-year-old son screaming and I ran downstairs and blood was pouring from Niambh’s mouth and nose. I dialled 999. I was beside myself.”

The girls were admitted to hospital and measles was finally diagnosed the following day when the tell-tale rash began to emerge. The twins have now returned home.

She said: “There is nothing the doctors can do. They just have to try to get over it themselves. They are running extremely high temperatures and they don’t like the light. They are really happy, smiley little girls but I haven’t seen them smile in days.

“They were born at 29 weeks so they are my little miracles and they got through all that, but now this.”

NHS Worcestershire said there had been a big upsurge in the number of cases of measles in Worcestershire with 10 confirmed cases in the last couple of months.

So far in 2012 there have been 41 suspected and confirmed cases in Worcestershire – compared with only two cases in Herefordshire.

It is thought the increase may be linked to parents refusing the vaccine.

Dr Ash Banerjee, public health consultant for NHS Worcestershire, said: “Measles is an unpleasant illness that can cause serious complications and spreads very easily.

“The MMR vaccine is safe and effective – it is the best thing any parent can do to protect their child.”

What is measles?

• Measles is caused by a very infectious virus. It can be serious, causing a high fever and a rash.

• A child with measles will have to spend about five days in bed and may be off school for 10 days.

• About one in every 15 children with measles will develop more serious complications. These can include diarrhoea, chest infections, fits, encephalitis (infection of the brain), and brain damage. Measles can kill. Studies show that for every 5,000 people with measles, one is very likely to die.

• NHS Worcestershire advises parents who know their children have missed the MMR – or are not sure if they have had it – to contact their GP practice.

• Even those who have had single vaccines will need the MMR for full protection.