Measles – get vaccinated – it is highly infectious

HSE Press Statement

3rd August  2011

Children must be vaccinated before travel as Europe sees over 21,000
measles cases and seven deaths this year – HSE

The HSE National Immunisation Office today (Wednesday) urged parents
to make sure that their children are fully vaccinated against measles
following a large pan national outbreak of the disease in Europe.
Since the start of 2011 there have been more than 21,000 cases of
measles in Europe. More than half of the reported cases occurred in
France where six deaths, 14 neurological complications and 444 cases
with severe pneumonia have been reported, according to the head of the
HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran.

“One death occurred in Germany and large outbreaks are also being
reported from Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, UK and
Italy.

“Many cases are due to travel of infected people between countries.
As there is more travel between Europe and Ireland over the summer,
there is an increased risk to Irish children and teenagers who are not
fully vaccinated against measles.

“There have been significant outbreaks in France, Spain and Belgium,
which are popular holiday destinations for Irish families and with
college students on holiday, working, visiting relatives and friends
or attending summer camps or other summer activities. Additionally,
the World Youth Day in Madrid will bring a large gathering of youth
from all over the Europe together.

“Vaccination with MMR vaccine is the only way to protect against
measles.  In Ireland, the first MMR dose is given at 12 months of age,
and the second dose at 4-5 years of age.   Parents must make sure that
their children and teenagers are protected against measles by ensuring
they have been immunised with MMR before they visit Europe. Measles is
a highly infectious and dangerous illness which spreads very easily,
particularly in homes, crèches, playgroups, camps, schools and
universities.
“Parents should speak with their GP and get the vaccine for their
child if needed. The vaccine is free.
“At the moment, only 90% of children in Ireland have received one dose
of MMR by 24 months of age, which is below the target of 95% to
prevent cases of measles and measles outbreaks.
“So far, 110 cases of measles have been reported in Ireland since
January 2011.  Seventy nine percent, or 87 cases of measles, have
occurred in residents in the HSE East and 14 cases were under 12
months of age and were too young to have been vaccinated. Nearly 50%
of cases occurred in individuals who were eligible for vaccination but
had not received any dose of MMR vaccine while 22 cases received one
dose of MMR. Two doses of MMR will protect 99% of those receiving the
vaccine.  Twelve individuals with measles have been hospitalised for
between 2 and 14 days.

“At least eight of our measles cases were infected while travelling
overseas in Europe, transmission from these cases then occurred in
Ireland,” added Dr Corcoran.

Complications – 0.3% fatality rate in western countries – serious
fatality rate in  Africa and especially in immune compromised people
with HIV or cancers.

Also encephalitis in some, middle ear infections and measles pneumonia