Sunday 25 September 2016

Measles Q&A: It's only a handful of cases - should we be worried?

Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE MEASLES? Symptoms appear 10 days after exposure. Irritability, a runny nose, red eyes and a hacking cough, as well as fever, can signal the illness. The measles rash usually appears in about four days. Picture posed. Stock Image
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE MEASLES? Symptoms appear 10 days after exposure. Irritability, a runny nose, red eyes and a hacking cough, as well as fever, can signal the illness. The measles rash usually appears in about four days. Picture posed. Stock Image

I thought measles was a normal childhood illness. Why should we be worried about a few cases?

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Measles has been all but eradicated in Ireland. The infection usually passes without problems, but it can sometimes lead to serious complications, including potentially life-threatening infections of the lungs or brain. It is easily passed on so any outbreak must be controlled.

How many cases have been confirmed this year?

Thirty cases so far this year. The first cases were caught abroad and the infected people returned here. This led to others being infected, ranging in age from under 12 months to people in their 20s.

I had measles as a child. Could I still be infected?

No, if you get measles once, you have lifelong immunity.

Who is still at risk so?

Anyone who is not vaccinated. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is given at 12 months of age and a second dose is delivered when a child is four or five. Any adult born since 1978 should have received the two doses. But an unfounded scare about the vaccine in the late 1990s led to a fall-off in take-up.

Some people who have been vaccinated but have a weakened immune system due to illness are also at risk.

What is the advice to ensure I don't get measles?

If you did not have measles as a child, check if you got the two doses of the vaccine. If not, a GP can give the two injections four weeks apart.

How do I know if I have measles?

Symptoms appear 10 days after exposure. Irritability, a runny nose, red eyes and a hacking cough, as well as fever, can signal the illness. The measles rash usually appears in about four days.

What should I do?

Stay at home and phone a GP. Don't go to the surgery or hospital. Stop any visitors coming to the house.

Irish Independent

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