Limerick at risk of deadly measles outbreak

Public Health Medicine Consultant Dr Breda Cosgrove.

HEALTH experts have warned that the Limerick region is at risk of a potentially deadly measles outbreak because it has the lowest take up of the measles vaccine outside of Dublin.

The Department of Public Health Mid-West confirmed that it investigated a single case of measles in the region in recent weeks.

It was the first case of measles in the country since 2020, and the first case in the Mid-West since 2018 when an outbreak led to 40 cases, including some which were traced outside of the region

In a statement issued this morning, a department spokesman said they were concerned about the uptake of the MMR (measles,mumps,rubella) vaccine in the Mid-West which has dropped since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the latest provisional data, Limerick has one of the lowest rates of MMR uptake in the country at 82.6 per cent, followed by Clare at 89.1 per cent and North Tipperary at 88.9 per cent in the Mid-West region.

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Dublin North West at 76.5 per cent and Dublin North Central (73.3 per cent have the lowest levels of take up of the vaccine.

“Due to these rates, we are vulnerable to a measles outbreak in the community as it requires 95 per cent vaccine coverage to prevent outbreaks in the population,” the spokesman added.

“Although measles is a highly contagious virus that can result in serious complications in young children, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems, it is almost entirely preventable through vaccination which is free of charge through childhood and school vaccination programmes.

“We are encouraging all parents to ensure that their child is protected against measles. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended—the first at 12 months of age, and the second at four to five years of age.”

Dr Breda Cosgrove, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Public Health Mid-West, said the recently confirmed measles case in the region was a reminder of the threat posed by this highly contagious virus.”

“In Limerick and across the Mid-West, we are not reaching 95 per cent vaccination coverage that’s needed to achieve community immunity and protection from this disease.

“MMR vaccine will protect your child against measles so it’s really important to keep up-to-date with your child’s vaccines. If you are delayed with your child’s vaccines, please contact your GP practice to arrange an appointment,” she added.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there are also worrying low levels nationally of take up of the DTaP-IPV Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis and Polio Vaccine among junior infants.