'Fake news' about MMR vaccine blamed for rise in measles cases here
Measles cases have almost trebled from just 25 cases in 2017 to 66 this year, as the disease enters the country via EU holidaymakers and immigrants.
Statistics obtained by the Irish Independent reveal the rise, with the spread of the disease across Europe being partly being blamed on "fake news" stories about the vaccine.
EU countries affected by outbreaks include France, Greece, Romania and Italy - countries where the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine has historically seen a low uptake.
An anti-vaccine movement is gaining traction in some areas, including Rimini, Italy, a resort many Irish holidaymakers visit each year.
Measles became headline news here earlier this year when it emerged two cases had attended several hospitals in Dublin.
The HSE confirmed it had been notified of four further cases in Dublin, affecting two adults and two children.
"These four individuals are likely to have developed measles from contact with one of the two earlier cases at hospitals in Dublin," it warned.
"The HSE requests people to continue to be vigilant about measles."
The Public Health Department has sent an alert to all emergency departments and GPs in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow, informing them to be vigilant about measles.
New statistics compiled by Dr Helena Murray and Dr Suzanne Cotter, both specialists in public health medicine at the HSE, show the mid-west of Ireland has been worst affected this year with 33 cases. The east, including Dublin and surrounding areas, has witnessed about half as many cases, while the south-east has seen 10.
Dr Murray said measles often affected people who had moved to Ireland, or those who had been on holiday and were returning.
While the State has a very good MMR vaccination rate of 95pc, the disease is still entering the country.
There have been no recorded deaths from measles in Ireland since 2000, when there were more than 1,600 cases overall.
Three children died from the illness that year in Dublin.
Around that time the vaccination rate had dropped after false claims in the UK that the MMR could lead to autism.
GP Angela Parvu, of Alfa Medics surgery in the Northside Shopping Centre in Dublin, said this type of "fake news" was still being spread - with many fearful of MMR and other vaccines.
"I always check with people who've moved to Ireland to see if their children are vaccinated," Dr Parvu said.
"And many patients don't want the MMR and other vaccines. They tell me about stories that they've heard on social networks, that are fake news.
"I explain I have my own children and it's my duty of care to vaccinate them for their safety. It is every parent's duty."
Medical experts from the HSE said a vaccination programme may need to be considered to encourage those born in the late 1990s to 2000s to have the MMR vaccine.
Dr Brenda Corcoran, consultant in public health medicine, said once one person had measles, they could infect up to 20 people.
"One in 10 who get measles will get pneumonia, one in 1,000 will die. We don't want anyone or any child to be put at risk," she said.
How to spot the first symptoms of an infection
Measles starts with cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and a high temperature.
These begin to develop within 10 days after the infection.
A day or two before the measles rash appears, many people develop small greyish-white spots in their mouth.
The rash is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots and may join together into larger blotchy patches.
It appears around two to four days after the first symptoms and normally fades after about a week.
For most, the illness lasts from seven to 10 days.
If you think you may have measles, health officials recommend avoiding work, school or crèche.
Individuals should stop visitors coming to the house to prevent the illness spreading.