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Measles

GPs advise parents that infants 6-11 months should receive extra MMR vaccine if travelling abroad

Measles cases have skyrocketed in Europe over the last year.

FAMILY DOCTORS ARE advising parents that young infants eligible for the MMR vaccine should receive an additional dose before travelling abroad as the contagious illness spikes across Europe.

The Irish College of GPs, the representative organisation in education and standards in general practice, has recommended that infants between six and 11 months should receive an addition MMR vaccine at least two weeks before travelling overseas.

A statement issued by the professional body this morning is reminding the public that measles “is a potentially serious and highly infectious disease and is preventable through vaccination”.

Dr Scott Walkin, the College’s Clinical Lead for Infection Control, has outlined that measles is spreading rapidly in Europe.

“Getting the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent cases of measles. It is a highly contagious disease. It is easily passed from person to person, where large number of people congregate, including airports, buses, trains and ferries,” Dr Walkin said.

“People at greatest risk of becoming ill with measles include infants and people who are not fully vaccinated with the MMR vaccine,” he said.

“Young babies are at particular risk of complications. Overseas travel presents a high risk of developing measles for unvaccinated children. It can be a severe illness which requires hospitalisation in about one in five cases. Vaccination is safe, effective and it’s essential for community immunity.”

There have been at least 47 cases of measles confirmed in Ireland so far in 2024.

In Europe, the incidence of measles has skyrocketed over the last year.

56,634 measles cases and four deaths have been officially reported across 45 out of 53 countries in the World Health Organisation’s European Region during the first three months of 2024 alone.

In 2023, there were 61,070 cases and 13 deaths reported by 41 countries in the European region.

Nearly half of the reported cases in 2023 were in children under the age of five, which the WHO has said reflects “an accumulation of children who missed routine vaccinations against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases during the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with slow recovery in vaccination coverage in 2021 and 2022″.

A measles infection tends to start with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after a person is infected, followed a few days later by a rash. Symptoms include:

  • Cold-like symptoms (eg runny nose, sneezing, coughing)
  • Sore, red eyes
  • A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above
  • A rash, which usually appear on the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body

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