Health officials in Ireland are urging adults aged under 40 across the Mid-West to get the MMR vaccine and the outbreak total has now grown to 25 confirmed cases.
The majority of the cases are in Limerick City and one is in Clare but linked to Limerick. Almost two-thirds of cases are aged between 15 and 40 years demonstrating that measles is not just an illness of childhood. Half of the cases have been hospitalized.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) offers the following advice for adults and children:
The following groups, in particular, should check if they have had two doses of MMR and if not, visit their GP to get immunized as soon as possible.
- Parents under the age of 40 who have never had measles or haven’t had the full course of MMR vaccine
- Adults under the age of 40 who work with the public. Some jobs pose more of a risk than others e.g. people who work with children, people who work in healthcare, those who work in education, those working in public offices or services and those who work in retail premises.
- Couples under the age of 40 who may be planning a family. This is as once a woman is pregnant she is unable to get the MMR vaccine until after the baby arrives. Measles increases the risk of miscarriage and still birth. There is no treatment available which reduces this risk.
- Adults and young people under the age of 40 who plan to travel abroad in the coming months. There are a number of large outbreaks of measles in Europe (the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Romania) and across the world currently. Measles can be transmitted easily within the confined space of an airplane to people who are non-immune.
- It is also important that parents of children in the region also check if their children have had the vaccines appropriate for their age (1st one at 1 year, 2nd one in Junior Infants in primary school). Parents whose children are sitting exams may wish to prioritize this due to the potential disruption to their exams an infection could cause. It is also especially important in those who are planning to bring their children abroad.
- People who cannot get the MMR vaccine i.e. young infants, pregnant women and those whose immune systems are weakened (cancer patients etc.) are relying on the people around them who can get the MMR vaccine to help protect them.
- The HSE is providing free MMR vaccination clinics (no appointment needed) in Barrack View Primary Care Centre, Edward Street, Limerick on Thursdays 22nd/29th March, and 5th/12th April, 3-4pm. As part of the outbreak control measures MMR is also being provided free through GPs. The HSE is paying for the vaccine and for the GPs to give the vaccine. Anyone who doesn’t have a medical card will need to give their PPSN.
Measles is a serious public health issue. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. It is spread easily through coughing and sneezing. Measles can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and can, in rare cases, lead to a fatal disease of the brain which develops years after the infection. The mortality rate from measles infection is 1-2 per 1,000 cases.
This measles outbreak is continuing because we do not have herd immunity – i.e. the proportion of the population immune to measles is less than 95%.
The only effective protection against measles is two doses of the MMR vaccine. Anyone who has not had two doses of MMR is at high risk of getting measles if they come in contact with someone who has it. Many adults this age also have young children, which means they are more likely to be exposed to measles and may in turn expose their babies and young children to measles if they get it.