A measles outbreak has been declared in Donegal, with a link to a third level institution in Galway. So far, there are two confirmed cases.
Measles infection typically causes a rash, fever, conjunctivitis (red eyes), cough or runny nose. The rash usually starts four days after the other symptoms. The rash starts on the forehead, spreads behind the ears and then down the trunk. Measles infection can have serious complications such as pneumonia, seizures and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). One to two out of every 1,000 who become infected with measles will die.
The best way to prevent measles infection is with two doses of the MMR vaccine. It is 99 per cent effective in preventing measles infection. The first dose of the MMR is usually given to children at 12 months of age, with a second dose given at four to five years of age. Anyone born since 1978 who is unsure if they have received two doses of a measles containing vaccine, such as MMR, should speak with their GP. Most people born before 1978 have had measles infection and will not get measles again.
While the majority of children in Donegal still receive the MMR vaccine, the numbers have been dropping slightly over the past few years. As soon as vaccination rates fall, old diseases re-emerge. This is why measles outbreaks are occurring in Ireland and across Europe. The MMR vaccine has been used for many years and is very safe.
Measles is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes. If you suspect that you or your child has symptoms of measles, please call your GP and inform them. It is important that you do not visit your GP without first letting him or her know that you or your child may have measles. This is because you might be infectious to others at the GP surgery. Your GP will be able to make special arrangements for you to come in and see him or her and do tests to confirm your diagnosis.
To prevent further infections, people who are diagnosed with measles are advised to stay away from school, college, work, and public places for four days following the onset of their rash.
For more information on measles please see http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/Measles/