Monday 17 June 2019

Schools and colleges at risk of escalating the spread of measles

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Schools and colleges are at risk of becoming a hotbed for measles outbreaks, public health officials have warned.

They have reported that 13 cases of the highly contagious disease have been diagnosed in Dublin's north inner city.

The first cases in the city were seen in July in hospitals and households where people are not vaccinated. But there is increasing concern as the spread of the disease into the wider community signals that the outbreak is not under control.

"We are now starting to see cases that acquired measles in the wider inner city community," said an HSE spokesman.

"There have been no deaths from measles associated with this outbreak to date."

It is feared that infection rates will escalate as children return to school next week from the summer holidays and students congregate in colleges from September.

It emerged earlier this week that the number of cases reported across Europe has reached an eight-year high.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the number of cases of the highly infectious disease during 2018 had already outstripped any year since 2010.

More than 41,000 people have been infected in the first six months, with 37 deaths.

Last year, there were 23,927 cases and in 2016 some 5,273 people were infected.

In Ireland, there were 76 cases of measles reported by the middle of July compared with just one case for the same period last year.

Alert

There was a large outbreak of measles in Limerick earlier this year when more than 20 adults and children were infected.

Other counties hit were Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

Health authorities are now on high alert.

In Europe, governments are becoming increasingly concerned about the resurgence of measles.

Laws have been passed in France, Germany and Italy recently making it mandatory that all parents give their children the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab, or at least consult their doctor about it.

It continues to be voluntary for parents in Ireland.

This year marks two decades since the British researcher Andrew Wakefield published a paper wrongly linking the MMR with autism.

It prompted a wave of hysteria across the world, and a dramatic fall in the rate of parents vaccinating their children in countries including Ireland.

Although vaccination rates have increased again, there are pockets where it is still low.

A significant number of people who missed out on the jab as babies are now teenagers and young adults.

The HSE said: "If you think you may have measles, stay at home and phone your GP for advice.

"People who are sick should not attend any congregated settings such as crèche, school, work or religious gatherings until they have recovered from illness."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News