The current measles outbreaks in Ireland and around the world are putting pregnant women and their unborn babies and unvaccinated babies at risk of serious health complications or death.
We all need to make sure we are protected against measles before travelling to Europe and elsewhere as complacency in getting MMR vaccine could cause deaths in Ireland due to large measles outbreaks and related deaths in Europe and around the world, warned the HSE during World Health Organization European Immunization Week (24-30 April).
Measles is a serious illness and can cause death and other serious complications including infections of the lungs and brain, says Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Lucy Jessop.
“Measles cases worldwide have tripled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018. Many European countries are reporting measles outbreaks with the highest number of outbreaks in France, Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic and Belgium. Thirty five measles related deaths have been reported in EU countries since 2018.”
Dr Jessop continued: “In Ireland we are experiencing our own outbreaks with 48 cases reported so far in the first 15 weeks of 2019. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases. One case of measles can infect up to 18 people. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and by close contact with an infected individual. As we enter the summer season with families and individuals travelling on holidays, no person or country is beyond the reach of the measles virus.
“The only protection against measles is the MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine (at 12 months and when your child is in Junior Infants) are required to be fully protected. While uptake in Ireland has remained steady at around 92%, we need to increase uptake rates to the target of 95% to make sure that measles does not circulate here. This is important for everybody but is particularly vital to protect young babies as they cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 12 months old. They are vulnerable to complications, including death if they are exposed to measles infection.
“Vaccines saves lives and protect against serious illness. Due to good vaccine uptake, we have thankfully not seen outbreaks of other infectious diseases in Ireland that we witnessed in the past but we must not let complacency creep in. We must remember vaccines are a simple, effective and safe way to save lives and prevent serious illness”, said Dr Jessop.
Visit www.immunisation.ie - the only WHO accredited website in Ireland providing up accurate accessible vaccine information.