More adults now getting measles as health chiefs issue warning
Measles is now striking people in their 30s and 40s as a number of areas of the country battle outbreaks of the disease.
The rate of infection has been highest among young children since the beginning of the year but a number of cases have been diagnosed in adults over 35 years of age.
Cases have emerged in all regions but the worst hit are the mid-west and parts of Dublin.
The reason why older age groups are becoming infected is due to them not being vaccinated with the MMR jab against the disease.
Children younger than five years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
It can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and can, in rare cases, lead to a fatal disease of the brain which develops years after the infection.
Three measles outbreaks have been reported in Ireland since the beginning of 2018, the disease watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, revealed.
"The high number of teenagers and adults affected is of particular concern," said disease expert Suzanne Cotter.
There have been 41 cases of measles reported since the start of January in the mid-west, most of them in Limerick.
Another 15 people were infected in the east of the country, two in the south-east and one in the west.
The disease watchdog also said the first outbreak of the year was notified in Limerick after the patient who was exposed to measles abroad became ill on return to Ireland.
A majority of cases in the mid-west are aged 15 years or older, most of whom were never vaccinated or could not recall getting the jab.
In Dublin, one family outbreak of measles was reported after exposure to a visitor from overseas.
"Measles is highly infectious and transmission can rapidly occur within the community without known contact with a case," Ms Cotter said.
"Vaccination is the only way to reliably prevent measles and its complications."
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90pc of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
It is spread easily through coughing and sneezing.
The mortality rate from measles infection is 1-2 per 1,000 cases.
The HSE in Limerick has set up vaccination clinics.
For the duration of the outbreak, MMR vaccination is free of charge to the public from GPs. The HSE is paying for the vaccine and for the GPs to administer the jab.