Up to 62 cases of measles reported

As many as 62 measles cases have been notified to health authorities in the first three months of the year, a 6,000% increase compared to a single case for the same period last year.

They include three outbreaks: In the Midwest region (Limerick, Clare, South Tipperary), in the east (Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow), and in the south-east. A single case has been confirmed in the western region.

Of the 62, 40 are confirmed, one is probable, and 21 are possible cases.

A peak in incidence was seen in week 11 when 11 cases were notified.

Two of the three outbreaks related to measles importation from another country. For one outbreak, no international source has been identified to date. A separate single measles case occurred in the HSE West following travel to Britain. 

Further additional cases are under investigation, according to Epi-Insight, an online disease surveillance report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The report summarises the measles situation in Ireland for the first 12 weeks of 2018, from January 1 to March 24 and highlights the risk of measles among non-immune children, teenagers, and adults, following importation from countries where measles outbreaks are occurring.

“The high number of teenagers and adults affected is of particular concern,” states the report. The majority of confirmed cases are in the 15-plus age group. Most cases were either unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated.

The cases include 28 confirmed in the Midwest and 13 possible, the majority in Limerick City, with one in Clare but linked to Limerick. Half the Midwest patients have been hospitalised.

In Limerick, the index case was exposed to measles while travelling internationally. Onward transmission occurred among family and contacts. 

A majority of all cases in the Midwest were aged 15 and older (61%), most of whom were never vaccinated (59%). A case was notified in the east, with links to the Midwest outbreak.

In the Dublin region, two separate outbreaks were notified in week 10. One occurred in a family setting (three cases), infected with measles following exposure to a visitor from overseas. No onward transmission occurred.

The first case in the second outbreak was in a non-Irish national who reported close contact in a household setting with a person with measles-compatible infection 10 days previously. Neither had travelled outside the country during the incubation period.

An adult case of measles reported in HSE West was an individual who travelled to Britain two weeks prior to onset of symptoms and visited a site where a measles case was present.

At the time of writing the Epi-Insight report, HSE Southeast was investigating two possible measles cases.

The HSE is running free MMR vaccination clinics, with one due to take place at Barrack View Primary Care Centre, Edward St, Limerick, on April 12, 3pm-4pm.

For the duration of this outbreak, MMR vaccination is free of charge from GPs as the HSE is paying for the vaccine and for the GPs to administer it. The HSE said measles “is a serious public health issue”.

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