Measles outbreaks in Ireland and Europe

Published:

Twenty one cases of measles have been notified to the HSE since the beginning of 2019; seven cases are confirmed and the remainder are under investigation. Eleven cases are reported from the northwest, six of which are laboratory confirmed and are linked to the recently reported outbreak in Donegal. To date, none of the confirmed measles cases appear to have been vaccinated. As the index case reported travel to another European country during the incubation period, HPSC consider this outbreak to be directly related to importation of the measles virus into Ireland following exposure in another country.

The HSE is particularly concerned about the risk of measles in children/adults/students who travel overseas over the forthcoming holiday period and may unknowingly be exposed to measles in community settings (including airports, in holiday resorts and on public transport).

All individuals should be aware of their measles immunity status before travel (either immune from infection or being vaccinated with the correct number of doses for their age) and seek MMR vaccination (if appropriate) to ensure protection against measles while away.

Measles outbreak in France
French health authorities have reported an outbreak of measles at the Val-Thorens ski resort, one of the highest in the Alps and a popular destination for both French and foreign tourists. There are a number of confirmed and suspected cases of measles mostly in seasonal workers at the resort.

Measles outbreaks in Europe
Measles cases in Europe mainly occur in unvaccinated populations in both adults and children. Large outbreaks with fatalities are ongoing in countries that had previously eliminated or interrupted transmission of measles. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) monitors the measles outbreaks in the EU/EEA and publishes regular updates on measles cases and outbreaks. The latest reports are available from ECDC.

Symptoms of measles
Measles symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Red rash that starts on head and spread down the body - this normally starts a few days after onset of illness. The rash consists of flat red or brown blotches, which can flow into each other. It lasts about 4-7 days.
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy pain may also happen.

Preventing measles
Prevent measles by vaccination with MMR vaccine:

  1. All children should get the MMR vaccine when they are aged 12 months. If any child aged over 12 months has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP.
  2. Children aged 6-11 months of age, travelling to other countries and regions where measles outbreaks are reported, are recommended MMR vaccine. A dose given before 12 months of age does not replace the dose that would normally be given at 12 months of age.
  3. All children should get a second dose of MMR vaccine when they are 4-5 years old or in Junior Infants at school. If any child in Senior Infants or older has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP.
  4. Adults under 40 years who have not had measles or have not received 2 doses of MMR vaccine should contact their GP to get the MMR vaccine.
  5. Adults over 40 years of age may sometimes be at risk and if such adults never had measles nor a measles containing vaccine they should consider getting the MMR vaccine from their GP.

Prevent the spread of measles if you think you may have measles:

  1. Do not go to work, school or crèche.
  2. Stay at home and phone your GP. Tell the doctor or nurse that you think you might have measles.
  3. Stop visitors coming to the house to prevent the spread of measles.
  4. Pregnant women who have been exposed to measles and are non-immune should seek medical advice as soon as possible.