Under-40s need measles vaccine as cases climb

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Measles

There are now 22 cases of Measles in the Mid-West region since the beginning of the year. The majority of these are in Limerick city and one is in Clare. 

The HSE is advising that 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.  

HSE Advice for adults 

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“We are asking all adults aged under 40 to check if they have had two doses of MMR and if not to arrange to get immunised by their GP,” a spokesman 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. Some jobs pose more of a risk than others e.g. people who work with children, people who work in healthcare. This is as measles is very infectious and as this outbreak continues the risk of exposure continues.
  • Couples under the age of 40 who may be planning a family. This is as once a woman is pregnant she is unable to get the MMR vaccine until after the baby arrives. Measles increases the risk of miscarriage and still birth. There is no treatment available which reduces this risk.
  • Adults and young people under the age of 40 who plan to travel abroad in the coming months. There are a number of large outbreaks of measles in the UK, Europe and across the world currently. Measles can be transmitted easily within the confined space of an airplane to people who are non-immune.

HSE advice for children

The HSE says that it is also important that parents of children in the region also check if their children have had the vaccines appropriate for their age (1st one at 1 year, 2nd one in Junior Infants in primary school).

“Parents whose children are sitting exams may wish to prioritise this due to the potential disruption to their exams an infection could cause. It is also especially important in those who are planning to bring their children abroad.

“People who cannot get the MMR vaccine i.e. young infants, pregnant women and those whose immune systems are weakened (cancer patients etc.) are relying on the people around them who can get the MMR vaccine to help protect them.

 

HSE advice for people who have symptoms of measles infection (rash, fever, cough, temperature)

  • Stay at home from work. Children should not attend school or crèche.
  • Call the Department of Public Health at 061 – 483338 to advise that you think you/your child may have measles.
  • Telephone your GP so that they can see you at a time/place when no one else is there (to avoid infecting others).
  • Your GP may organise a test to confirm the diagnosis – this is usually done by using a small swab that takes a sample of the oral fluid from the mouth.

“Patients with symptoms of measles should avoid presenting to the emergency department where possible. If it is necessary to seek urgent care, it is important to inform the ambulance service or emergency department that you have symptoms consistent with measles beforehand so that the appropriate precautions can be taken. Similarly, if you have been in contact with a confirmed case of measles and are seeking medical attention, please inform the healthcare provider before attending.

“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 only effective protection against measles is two doses of the MMR vaccine.

The outbreak of measles in the Mid-West demonstrates that measles is not just a childhood illness, around half of the cases are adults aged less than 40 years of age.

Adults older than 40 tend to be immune as measles was very common when they were children and they probably had the infection.

Adults younger than 40 may not have immunity as they probably haven’t had the infection before and they may not have had the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine was introduced to Ireland in 1988 so many adults in this age group may have missed out on getting it or may not have had the full course of two doses.

This means that they are 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 it if they get it.

An Outbreak Control Team made up of representatives from the HSE is involved in managing the outbreak in an effort to prevent further spread. This involves following up on every case of measles or suspected measles, arranging vaccination for people who have been in contact with someone who is infected and holding immunisation clinics.

The HSE also spoke about pricing in relation to the vaccine “Please note that patients are entitled to receive the MMR vaccine free of charge from their GP. Patients should not be charged for this service.”

For more information on measles see: http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/vaccinepreventable/measles/

For more information about the MMR see www.immunisation.ie/

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