Man dies from measles in first such case in Ireland this year

Health Protection Surveillance Centre says person died in hospital in Dublin and Midlands Health Region

The HSE has confirmed the death of a man from measles, the first case in Ireland this year.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre said the person died in a hospital in the Dublin and Midlands Health Region.

It said public health teams, along with the HSE Measles National Incident Management Team (IMT), are taking all necessary public health actions in relation to the case.

The team was established in response to a recent rise in measles cases in the UK and mainland Europe.

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The HSE said it offers MMR vaccine to protect against measles to all children as part of its childhood immunisation schedule.

It said anyone with concerns should contact their GP.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly briefed Cabinet on Tuesday that a significant increase of measles cases notified in Europe this winter, coupled with falling rates of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine uptake in Ireland, has raised concerns about wide transmission of the disease in Ireland in 2024.

One-fifth of the population in some counties have no protection against measles, due to low vaccination rates.

The World Health Organisation has issued an urgent warning over measles after an “alarming” 30-fold rise in cases across Europe. More than 30,000 cases of the disease were reported in the first nine months of last year, compared to under 1,000 in the whole of 2022.

In England, 170 cases of measles were notified in an outbreak in the west midlands between December 2023 and mid-January 2024.

Ireland recorded only four cases of the disease last year, imported from outside the EU in a single family outbreak. No cases were reported this year up to January 27th.

There were two cases in 2022. While no cases were reported in 2021, there were five recorded in 2020, the HSE said, with no deaths reported in any of those years.

The only protection against measles is vaccination. MMR vaccine uptake in Ireland is currently below the World Health Organisation recommended target uptake of 95 per cent. Nationally, uptake has been below 90 per cent for seven consecutive quarters.

Measles is highly contagious, and while often associated with a rash, the virus can spread around the body, potentially leading to severe complications.

It usually takes around seven to 14 days for the first symptoms to appear, with those infected typically suffering with a high temperature, a cough, runny or blocked nose, and red, watery eyes, followed a few days later by the rash.

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