DR MUIRIS HOUSTON
Tue, May 15, 2012
THE LATEST outbreak of measles in the Republic has occurred in west Cork, the Health Service Executive said yesterday.
Twenty-five children, mainly teenagers aged 12-18, have been diagnosed with the viral illness in the last four weeks.
None of those infected had been immunised with the MMR vaccine, which protects against mumps, measles and rubella, public health doctors confirmed.
MMR immunisation rates here have still not recovered following discredited research in 1998 linking the vaccine with bowel disease and autism.
Dr Fiona Ryan, specialist in public health medicine at HSE South, said, “This outbreak is affecting children who are not vaccinated. Siblings of children with measles, if not vaccinated, are also recommended to stay out of school or childcare during the incubation period (usually about 14 days but may be up to 21 days), to ensure that they do not transmit infection to other children who may be too young for vaccination or be at increased risk due to other conditions.”
She urged parents of children who are not immunised to attend for vaccination.
MMR given to a child within 72 hours of exposure to measles may prevent the illness. The vaccine can prevent measles in more than 90 per cent of immunised children, following a single dose of the vaccine. With a second dose of MMR vaccine, more than 99 per cent of immunised children are protected from measles infection.
This vaccine is given free by family doctors to children aged 12-15 months, and a second dose is given at school entry. MMR vaccination is also recommended for children aged 11-12 years who have not received two previous doses of MMR.
Symptoms of measles develop nine to 11 days after becoming infected. The first symptoms include irritability, a runny nose, red eyes, a hacking cough and a fever. These symptoms may last up to eight days.
A skin rash, consisting of flat red or brown blotches, starts from day four. It usually starts on the forehead and spreads downwards over the face, neck and body and lasts from four to seven days.
About one in 20 of those infected will get pneumonia, one in 1,000 will get encephalitis (brain inflammation) and between one and two in 1,000 will die from measles.
The latest annual report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre showed a 149 per cent increase in measles cases in Ireland in 2010, with 403 cases notified compared with 162 cases in 2009.
About one-quarter of the 2010 cases required hospitalisation. Cases predominantly occurred in children who had not been vaccinated in what the surveillance centre said was a “worrying number of measles outbreaks in Ireland and Europe”.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported a recent measles outbreak in Ukraine, prompting a warning to soccer fans planning to travel there for next month’s European Championships to ensure they are fully immunised.
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