HALF of the measles cases in Limerick have had to be hospitalised, the HSE has said, as the virus outbreak continues to worsen in the region.
The number of measles patients has risen by two, amounting to 25 cases since the outbreak was first announced on January 31.
In an urgent appeal to the public, the HSE has said that the problem is continuing because the rate of the population that has been vaccinated is too low to tackle the outbreak.
“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 spokesperson said that 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.”
Of the 25 cases, majority of which are in Limerick city, with one case in Clare, though this is linked to Limerick.
Almost two-thirds of detections are in people aged 15 to 40. The HSE said that this is “demonstrating that measles is not just an illness of childhood. Half of the cases have been hospitalised”.
“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,” the spokesperson explained.
The HSE is providing free MMR vaccination clinics, with no appointments required, on a number of dates.
The clinics will take place at Barrack View Primary Care Centre, Edward Street, on March 22 and 29, and April 5 and 12, between 3pm and 4pm.
"During this outbreak MMR vaccine is free of charge to the public as the HSE is paying for the vaccine and for the GPs to give the vaccine.
"The following groups, in particular, should check if they have had two doses of MMR and if not, visit their GP to get immunised as soon as possible.
"If people do not have a medical record of their vaccination it is not harmful to have extra doses to be on the safe side: 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; Couples under the age of 40 who may be planning a family; Adults and young people under the age of 40 who plan to travel abroad in the coming months."
The spokesperson said it was also important that parents of children in the region also check if their children have had the vaccines appropriate for their age.