Increase in Measles cases in the UK - Summer 2007b
In a recent press release (30th August 2007), the Health Protection Agency UK has reported an increase in measles cases in England and Wales in 2007. Nearly 500 confirmed cases of measles were reported in the UK so far this year compared to 756 cases for the whole of 2006 (provisional data). Between June to August 2007 more than 300 confirmed cases of measles were reported. Such a large increase over a short period of time is of deep concern.
The UK health authorities have urged parents to make sure that their children are up to date with MMR immunisation to prevent further spread of the disease.
Current situation in Ireland
Although the HPSC has not seen an increase in measles cases in Ireland compared to previous years, there is concern that measles cases from the UK could be imported into Ireland, particularly as there is so much travel between the two countries.
Ireland experienced a large outbreak in 2000, with over 1600 measles cases reported. Three children died as a result of infection acquired during that outbreak. Low levels of MMR vaccination among children meant that large numbers of children were susceptible to infection, and the virus spread rapidly throughout the country.
MMR vaccination uptake in Ireland (Q1 2007)
Most recent figures indicate that 86% of Irish children at 24 months of age have received one dose of MMR (Immunisation report Q1 2007). In recent years there has been a gradual increase in MMR uptake. But to prevent measles outbreaks occurring a sustained MMR uptake rate of at least 95% is needed.
Measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause serious complications, particularly among children less than 5 years of age and adults. The infection is characterized by a general body rash, a fever, and one or more of the following; cough, conjunctivitis, and runny nose. Measles is a notifiable disease.
MMR to protect against measles
MMR vaccine protects against measles. The vaccine is safe and effective. It is routinely given when children are 12-15 months of age, and a booster is given at 4-5 years of age.
All parents are urged to ensure that their children are vaccinated with MMR at the appropriate age to protect against measles infection. MMR vaccine is available from the GP.
All children who are entering school for the first time (junior infants) should have at least one MMR already. Older children (> 5 years of age) should already have received two doses of MMR. If they have not, please bring your child to your GP who can administer the vaccine free of charge.
For more information on the measles in Ireland please see: http://www.ndsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/Measles/Factsheet/
For more information on the measles outbreak in the UK please see: http://www.hpa.org.uk/hpa/news/articles/press_releases/2007/070830_mmr.htm
Recent reports on national immunisation uptake statistics are available at: http://www.ndsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/Vaccination/ImmunisationUptakeStatistics/