AN EXPERT group has called for children to be given a routine vaccine to prevent the most common cause of gastroenteritis.
Giving children aged six weeks to 32 weeks the oral rotavirus vaccine would help cut the risk of the serious condition that affects both the stomach and the intestine.
The recommendations are contained in a new set of guidelines on a range of vaccinations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
It also recommends:
* Offering the whooping cough vaccine to pregnant women at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy to protect themselves and their baby. Maternal antibodies from women who got the vaccine as a child fade and is unlikely to be strong enough to give passive protection to their infants prior to primary vaccination.
* Extending the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to include adults at increased medical risk.
* Offering gay men the HPV vaccine, which is currently given to girls to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.
The vaccine should be considered for boys aged nine to 26 years, says the NIAC.
The vaccine would also be useful in reducing the risk of developing cancer among bone marrow transplant survivors who are at higher risk from the virus, according to new guidelines.
Dr Kevin Connolly, chairperson of the NIAC, said: "Overwhelming evidence demons- trates the benefits of immunisation as one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions known.
"Immunisation programmes have been very successful achieving many things, including the eradication of smallpox, the reduction of the global incidence of polio by 99pc and reduced illness, disability and death from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, and meningitis.
"High vaccine coverage and surveillance are essential to prevent outbreaks of these diseases."
Meanwhile, a new social media campaign is under way to tackle the rise in the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. There has been a 33pc increase in cases of gonorrhea between 2011 and 2012.
Young men and women aged 17 to 29 years have been identified as a particular at-risk group.
The new campaign is using websites such as Facebook, Twitter.
Public health specialist Dr Fionnuala Cooney said: "Our ability to test for gonorrhea has improved in recent years. More sensitive tests, and more numbers attending for screening may account for some of the increase -- however, we know that unsafe sexual behaviour is a significant driver of the increase in cases of gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases."
The Dublin AIDS Alliance, the Union of Students Ireland, SpunOut.ie, the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and Think Contraception, are hoping the modern approach to prevention will have an impact.