Monday 23 April 2018

Measles passed on by patients in Kerry outbreak

The MMR vaccine uptake is as low as 83pc in some places (Stock photo)
The MMR vaccine uptake is as low as 83pc in some places (Stock photo)

Eilish O'Regan and Laura Larkin

Some children passed on measles to other young patients when they were in hospital in Kerry, it emerged yesterday.

The difficulty with measles is that a patient may be unwell but it can take four days for a rash to appear, during which time it can be mistaken for another illness, said Dr Fiona Ryan HSE public health specialist.

Measles is highly infectious before any rash appears, she added.

Dr Ryan was speaking as public health officials hoped the measles outbreak, which has led to 22 confirmed cases of the viral illness in north Kerry since mid-April, appeared to be coming under control.

Dr Ryan said there were no further cases of measles, which affected a range of age groups including infants, teens and people in their 20s.

"We have not had any evidence of the spread of measles in schools," she said.

Children may have been absent from school with other illnesses during the outbreak.

"The spread had been as a result of contact with relatives, in the community or in hospital," she pointed out.

The first case was "imported" and involved a patient who returned to the county after being infected with measles while abroad.

Nationally, 30 cases of measles have been confirmed this year, compared to just five for the whole of 2015.

Meanwhile, figures reveal that hundreds of children are still not being vaccinated against measles and are vulnerable to getting the disease if exposed to the virus.

The uptake of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has still not reached the 95pc level needed to give 'herd immunity'.

The MMR is given at 12 months and a second dose is delivered when a child is four to five years.

Figures for the first dose at the end of last year was 93pc but it is lower in some areas of the country.

Vaccination rates are as low as 83pc in inner city Cork and at 86pc in Dublin north central.

The vaccination rate is just 87pc of infants in Kerry, leaving many young children at risk if they come in contact with the measles virus, which is passed on when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Measles is mostly an unpleasant illness which passes in seven to 10 days but in some cases it can lead to life-threatening pneumonia or brain infection.

Meanwhile a school principal in Tralee, Co Kerry, who saw 10 of her pupils miss a number of weeks due to the measles outbreak, has described it as a "wake-up call" about the importance of vaccination.

Just four pupils in the 380-pupil Moyderwell Mercy Primary School actually contracted the virus but the other six pupils who were friends or relations of the sick children were advised to stay at home for three weeks.

Four of those children are still missing from school because they visited a sick boy before the end of their three-week incubation period and were advised to stay out of school for another 21 days.

Principal Moira Quinlan said: "It's a wake-up call for everybody about the importance of vaccination.

"Generally speaking it's still a bit up in the air because we don't have access to the database to show who has been vaccinated and who hasn't. This has been a wake-up call again to show that there are children who are not vaccinated.

"It is still up to the parents whether or not they want to vaccinate, at the end of the day. In this particular case the children have all been vaccinated since."

Irish Independent

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