CHILDREN must be fully vaccinated against measles before visiting Europe this summer, Ireland’s health protection watchdog has urged.
There have been more than 10,000 cases of the highly infectious viral disease and four related deaths in 18 European countries so far this year.
The Health Service Executive’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said many of the cases were due to infected people travelling between countries.
And, with more travel between Europe and Ireland over the summer, there is an increased risk to Irish children and teenagers who have not been fully vaccinated against measles.
HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Suzanne Cotter, said there had been 42 cases of measles reported in Ireland since January.
“One in five cases in Ireland were either related to recent European travel or to contact with infected individuals from European countries where measles outbreaks occurred,” she pointed out.
Eight of the cases reported were in children under 12 months of age who were too young to have been vaccinated but almost half of the rest had not received any doses of the MMR vaccine.
“There have been significant outbreaks in France, Spain and Belgium, which are popular holiday destinations for Irish families and with college students on holiday, working, visiting relatives and friends or attending summer camps or other summer activities,” said Dr Cotter.
“Measles is a highly infectious and dangerous illness which spreads very easily, particularly in homes, creches, play groups, camps, schools and universities.”
In Ireland the first MMR dose is given at 12 months and the second at four to five years of age. The HPSC is urging parents to speak to their GP and to get the vaccine for their child, if necessary. The vaccine is free.
“At the moment, only 90% of children in Ireland have received one dose of MMR by 24 months of age, which is below the target of 95% to prevent cases of measles and measles outbreaks,” said Dr Cotter.
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