Thursday 27 July 2017

A measles warning for summer holiday hotspots

Life-saver: Nobody likes needles, but the MMR vaccine can prevent children and adults from contracting the disease
Life-saver: Nobody likes needles, but the MMR vaccine can prevent children and adults from contracting the disease

Irish parents taking their children on holiday to Europe this summer are being warned of a measles outbreak in some of our favourite destinations.

A measles epidemic has officially been declared in France with nearly 5,000 cases reported between January and March this year.

This is almost equivalent to the total number of cases reported in France (5,090) during the whole of 2010.

Two deaths and 13 neurological complications among people who developed measles were reported there this year.

Other significant outbreaks are taking place in countries like Spain and Turkey.

The UK has recently reported that it is also seeing a rise in cases in both children and young adults.

Between January and April, 275 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles were reported in the UK compared to 33 cases for the same period the previous year.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the rising incidence and geographical spread of measles in the EU means that the risk of exposure to measles has increased for visitors.

Here, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said that the large measles outbreak that occurred in Ireland last year has abated.

However, measles is still circulating in the community and up to early April this year four people were diagnosed with laboratory-confirmed cases with others under investigation.

"Both children and adults have been affected with measles," the watchdog warned.

Measles is most common among children aged one to four years old, although anyone who has not been vaccinated against the disease can catch it.

The advice to parents is to ensure their children have received two doses of the MMR vaccine before travelling to Europe this summer.

All children need two doses of MMR vaccine, at age 12-15 months and at four to five years.

It's never too late to get the vaccine and older children and young adults who have not received at least two doses of MMR, or are unclear if they have the two shots, can get it from their GP.

Around one-in-15 people have complications after developing measles and one in 1,000 can die.

Possible complications of measles include pneumonia, ear and eye infections and croup, an infection of the lungs and throat.

More serious complications, such as encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, are rarer but can be fatal.

A person who has received the vaccine will have protective antibodies in the blood within 12 days of vaccination, reaching peak concentration within 21-28 days.

The re-emergence of measles in Europe has been evident since last year, when there were more than 30,000 cases reported and eight in 10 were unvaccinated.

Symptoms start to appear around 10 days after infection including:

  • Runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing.
  • Red eyes and sensitivity to light.
  • A mild to severe temperature, which may peak for a number of days, then drop but rise again when the rash appears.
  • Tiny greyish-white spots in the mouth and throat.
  • Tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy.

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