Measles outbreak in West Limerick

measlesThe HSE Mid West Department of Public Health is currently investigating an outbreak of measles in West Limerick.

Dr Rose Fitzgerald, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, stressed that “most people will have nothing to worry about as the vast majority of the population have either had measles infection or been fully vaccinated.

“We are being very cautious in this instance because measles is potentially a serious condition.  We are currently very close to eliminating measles here in Ireland,” she explained.

An extensive contact tracing exercise has been carried out and all known contacts of cases have been notified and advised of the risk by HSE staff. The HSE are continuing to identify those who may have been exposed to ensure people are aware of the risk and prevent further transmission.

Measles is highly infectious and is spread easily. There is a high chance that individuals who have not been fully vaccinated will develop measles if they are exposed.  As it may not be possible to specifically identify all those who have been exposed, the HSE is seeking to highlight the signs and symptoms of measles.

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Those who may be at risk of getting measles include anyone who did not have measles in the past and those who have not received the MMR vaccine. People require two doses of MMR for best protection against getting measles.

MMR is routinely given to children one year old and 4 to 5 years old, but may be given at any age. Most people born prior to 1978 have had measles infection.

People born since 1978, who have not had MMR vaccine (and never had measles infection) should make arrangements with their General Practitioner to get the MMR vaccine, which is free of charge, as soon as possible.

Signs and symptoms of measles:

Symptoms usually appear about 10 days after exposure with irritability, a runny nose, conjunctivitis (red eyes), a cough and an increasing fever that comes and goes. These symptoms usually last 2-4 days and can be mistaken for a cold.

A measles rash usually appears about four days after the early symptoms. The rash typically starts on the forehead and spreads downwards, over the face, neck and body. The rash consists of flat red or brown blotches, which can flow into each other. It lasts about 4-7 days. Symptoms may also include diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Anyone with signs or symptoms suggestive of measles, particularly if they have not been fully vaccinated or had measles in the past, should stay at home, not go to school or work and phone their GP and explain that they may have measles.
Control of measles in Ireland has been very successful with only 6 cases notified nationally in 2015. Ireland is striving to eliminate measles entirely.