Football fans warned about measles vaccination following major disease outbreaks in Euro 2008 host countries


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has today (Wednesday) warned football fans planning to travel to this summer's Euro 2008 tournament to make sure that they have been vaccinated against measles, following major outbreaks of the disease in Austria and Switzerland, who are jointly hosting the competition.

While Ireland did not qualify for the tournament some fans may still travel and should be aware that measles is an extremely contagious and potentially fatal disease, says HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Suzanne Cotter.

"These European outbreaks are a reminder of the importance of vaccination, especially for children, as it is the only safe and effective way to prevent measles from spreading. High levels of MMR vaccination are needed to protect against infection and to protect very young children - under 12 months of age - who are too young to be vaccinated. 

"While measles usually occur in children under four years old, people of any age if not already protected through natural infection or vaccination, can catch the disease. Severe disease and complications are most likely in young children under five years and adults over 20 years. It is important to realise that almost half of the deaths associated with measles occur in previously healthy children and young adults.

“The European outbreaks are a timely reminder to get vaccinated. MMR uptake for Irish children at 24 months of age in Ireland currently stands at 88% - which although the highest level ever recorded here - is still short of the 95% needed to prevent the virus from circulating and causing outbreaks. MMR is usually given in childhood – the first dose at 12 -15 months and the second at 4 - 5 years of age. Both the MMR vaccine and the administration fee is free for all children. Most adults, particularly those born before 1978, are likely to have already had measles infection. However, any individual in this age group who has never had measles infection or the measles vaccine should speak with their GP about getting it prior to travel. For adults administration fees may apply,” she said.