ONE of Limerick’s most challenging measles outbreaks in recent years continues to worsen, 13 weeks after the first case was detected in the city.
The outbreak, which was first announced by the HSE on January 16, has risen to 26 cases, a small increase of one person since last week.
And since the outbreak, it has emerged that more than 2,500 families with children that were not registered as having received the MMR vaccine.
As a result, letters have been sent to those families in the Mid-West to increase attendance at the free MMR clinics, now running every Thursday at Barrack View primary care centre.
A spokesperson said: “The majority of these 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 hospitalised.”
The first cases of the outbreak were detected in Dooradoyle’s Shannondoc and the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick, between January 3 and January 9.
A free HSE MMR vaccination clinic–no appointment needed–is being held in Barrack View Primary Care Centre, Edward Street, Limerick on this Thursday March 29, April 5 and 12, at 3pm to 4pm.
Additionally for the duration of this outbreak MMR vaccination is free of charge to the public from GPs as the HSE is paying for the vaccine and for the GPs to give the vaccine, the spokesperson said.
As uptake in the vaccine continues to be lower than the national average, the chief officer for HSE Mid-West, Bernard Gloster is urgently calling on members of the public to get vaccinated.
“But what I say the real message is, we will do everything possible in the context of the measles outbreak to contain it, reduce it, and eventually end it. But what I would say is really, really important, out of this outbreak, is the message to people to engage positively with the vaccination programmes that are available to them before there’s a problem. And the vaccination programmes are there right across the child health portfolio. They have been the subject of criticism and concern and views. People are entitled to their views, but certainly, when I see some of the commentary that I see about vaccines and I now look at the 25-plus cases of the outbreak of measles, it really for me is two and two will always be four. And we have to continue to get our protection levels up.”
The spokesperson said: "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.
The HSE is considering an out-of-hours MMR clinic to tackle the problem.