Measles outbreak continuing

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that as of Tuesday, February 19, in total there are seven cases of measles confirmed in the Donegal area.

Additional suspect cases are being investigated.  A number of children who were exposed to measles have been advised to remain at home to prevent further spread of the virus.  The HSE wishes to acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of patients, their families, GPs and NoWDOC, hospital staff, laboratories, schools and child care facilities.

Dr Anthony Breslin, Public Health Specialist said: “Measles is a serious and very infectious illness.  The current outbreak is having a significant impact on a large number of people.  Measles can be prevented by the MMR vaccine.”

Measles is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles infection typically causes a rash, fever, conjunctivitis (red eyes), cough or runny nose.

Other symptoms

The rash usually starts four days after the other symptoms. The rash starts on the forehead, spreads behind the ears and then down the trunk.  Measles infection can have serious complications such as pneumonia, seizures and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). 1-2 people out of every 1,000 who become infected with measles will die.

The best way to prevent measles infection is with 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. It is 99% effective at preventing measles infection. The first dose of the MMR is usually given to children at 12 months of age, with a second dose given at 4-5 years of age.

The MMR vaccine has been used for many years and is very safe.  Anyone born since 1978 who is unsure if they have received two doses of a measles containing vaccine, such as MMR, should speak with their GP. Most people born before 1978 have had measles infection and will not get measles again.

While the majority of children in Donegal still receive the MMR vaccine, the numbers have been dropping slightly over the past few years. As soon as vaccination rates fall, old diseases re-emerge. This is why measles outbreaks are occurring in Ireland and across Europe.

For more on measles visit http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/Measles/