Measles outbreak worsens with cases in Limerick and Dublin

HSE urge people to get MMR vaccine as number of cases expected to increase further


The latest measles outbreak has worsened, with 10 cases of the disease in Limerick and one in Dublin, according to the Health Service Executive.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has warned that it expects the outbreak to increase as a number of possible cases continue to be investigated.

The outbreak, which began in Limerick city in January, is being tackled by the HSPC’s measles outbreak control team, which offers advice on controlling the spread of the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus which usually results in a high fever and rash. It can also lead to blindness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or death, according to the World Health Organisation.

The best way to protect against measles is to be fully vaccinated with two doses of the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine. HSE staff in Limerick have been offering free MMR vaccinations in an effort to stem the spread of the disease.

Any person experiencing measles symptoms is advised to stay at home, not go to school or work and to contact their GP. Babies younger than 12 months or people who have not been vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine, as well as those with weakened immune systems, are most at risk of catching the disease.

More than 100 cases of measles have been reported across Europe this winter, leading to travel warnings for those who are not vaccinated.

The measles outbreak in Ireland follows news that the national uptake for the meningitis vaccine and vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough fell last year.

The uptake for the Tdap (tetanus, low-dose diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine among 11-14 year olds fell by 3 per cent in the 2016-2017 academic year to 85.5 per cent.

The Tdap vaccine was introduced to schools on a phased basis from September 2011 and extended to all areas from September 2012. It is offered to students in first year of secondary school and their age equivalents in special school and home schooling programmes.

Similarly, the national uptake for the MenC (meningococcal group C) vaccine also fell by three per cent to 83.9 per cent last year.

The MenC vaccination along with a booster vaccine is recommended to children of 12-13 years and was introduced to schools in September 2014.

The Workers’ Party has called for the introduction of a mandatory vaccination scheme for all children who use shared childcare and education schemes including crèches, play facilities and public and private schools.

Cllr Éilis Ryan warned that “misleading faslehoods about side-effects associated with vaccinations” had led to a downturn in the numbers of parents availing of childhood vaccination schemes.

“We should not underestimate the danger of this trend,” said Cllr Ryan. “Last November, a baby died in the midlands from whooping cough. In this day and age, it is a scandal for any child to die from a preventable disease.”

“In 2015, no country in the EU-17 had a tetanus/whooping cough vaccination rate below 90 per cent,” she said. “For Ireland to fall as low as 83.5 per cent is therefore a major downturn. When vaccination rates drop below 90 per cent, the ‘herd immunity’ benefits to infants and children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons begin to drop off.”