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Another measles outbreak confirmed, this time in north Dublin

There have been five cases since the start of February.

Image: Shutterstock/TinnaPong

AN OUTBREAK OF measles has been confirmed in north Dublin, the HSE has said.

The organisation said this is a community outbreak of measles affecting both adults and children. There have been five cases since the start of February.

The HSE has advised people who think they have the condition to stay at home and to contact their general practitioner for advice.

Measles is a highly infectious illness and spreads very easily. There was another outbreak, in Donegal, earlier this year.

Seven of the 25 cases of measles reported to the HSE to date in 2019 relate to the outbreak in Donegal. Overall, 13 of the 25 cases have been confirmed, eight are possible and four are probable. 

There were 77 reported cases, including 73 confirmed cases, of measles in Ireland last year, up from 25 cases in 2017. Provisional figures had previously indicated there were 86 cases, but this number was revised downwards by the HSE. 

Globally, 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 than the previous year. There were at least 72 measles-related deaths in Europe in 2018, up from 42 in 2017, but none in Ireland.

Unicef has warned that this “alarming” global surge is “a growing threat to children“. 

“This is a wake-up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” Peter Power, UNICEF Ireland’s Executive Director, said last week. 

These cases haven’t happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow.

It’s understood that all the confirmed cases to date this year relate to people who have not been vaccinated. In 2018, about seven in 10 of the confirmed cases involved people who were not vaccinated.

In a statement released today, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said all individuals “should be aware of their measles immunity status before travel (either immune from infection or being vaccinated with the correct number of doses for their age) and seek MMR vaccination (if appropriate) to ensure protection against measles while away”.

Measles symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Red rash that starts on the head and spreads down the body – this normally starts a few days after onset of illness; the rash consists of flat red or brown blotches, which can flow into each other; it lasts about four to seven days
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy pain may also happen

The Department of Health gives the following advice in relation to the MMR vaccine: 

  • All children should get the MMR vaccine when they are aged 12 months; if any child aged over 12 months has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • All children should get a second dose of MMR vaccine when they are four to five years old or in junior infants at school; if any child in senior infants or older has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • Adults under 40 years who have not had measles or have not received two doses of MMR vaccine should contact their GP to get the MMR vaccine
  • Adults over 40 years of age may sometimes be at risk and if such adults never had measles nor a measles containing vaccine they should consider getting the MMR vaccine from their GP

Measures to prevent the spread of measles if you think you may have the condition:

  • Do not go to work, school or crèche
  • Stay at home and phone your GP; tell the doctor or nurse that you think you might have measles
  • Stop visitors coming to your home
  • Pregnant women who have been exposed to measles should seek medical advice as soon as possible

Risk of measles from international travel:

There are ongoing outbreaks of measles in multiple countries in Europe and worldwide. Most of the cases in the EU in 2018 were reported from Romania, France, Greece and Italy.

Most people who get measles on holiday do not know they were exposed until they develop disease, the HSE said. Unrecognised exposures to measles have occurred at airports, on planes, at concerts, in shops and in healthcare settings.

Advice for people travelling abroad:

Vaccination remains the most effective measure against infection. Children aged six-11 months who are travelling to other countries and regions where measles outbreaks have been reported are recommended to get the MMR vaccine.

A dose given before 12 months of age does not replace the dose that would normally be given at 12 months of age, the HSE advised.

Older children should be age-appropriately vaccinated. Children who have missed their recommended doses should get the MMR vaccine from their GP.

Adults may be at risk of measles, particularly those under 40 years of age who have never had measles or two doses of a measles vaccine.

Complications of measles:

Measles can cause chest infections, fits (seizures), ear infections, swelling of the brain and/or damage to the brain.

Measles is a notifiable disease and GPs and hospital clinicians should immediately notify public health authorities if they suspect someone has measles.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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