Donnelly Warns of a High Likelihood of Measles Outbreak Among the Unvaccinated

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is set to inform Cabinet colleagues about the high likelihood of a measles outbreak among unvaccinated groups in Ireland. This assessment follows a risk evaluation conducted by the Health Service Executive last month. Recent trends show a rise in measles cases in both EU countries and England. Last year, Ireland reported four cases linked to travel to regions experiencing ongoing outbreaks.

The Cabinet will be informed that there is an increasing likelihood of measles being introduced and transmitted in Ireland. Despite the MMR vaccination being the only defense against measles, its uptake in Ireland has remained below 90% for nearly two years, falling short of the World Health Organization’s recommended target of 95%. Additionally, a recent Irish study revealed that over one-in-ten (11%) adults aged 18-34 are non-immune to measles, with the figure rising to nearly one-in-five (18%) for males aged 18-19 years.

Mr. Donnelly is expected to inform Government ministers that the likely cause of this situation is parental decisions to not vaccinate their children during infancy, influenced by debunked claims linking the vaccine to autism. The HSE is currently assessing its regional response plans in case of measles cases being identified. Additionally, a vaccine catch-up program for Leaving Cert and higher education students is under consideration.

A focused strategy is also being formulated for counties with low vaccine uptake.

Measles, a contagious viral infection, poses serious risks to small children but can be effectively prevented through vaccination. The virus spreads through the air via respiratory droplets expelled during coughing or sneezing by an infected individual. Symptoms typically manifest 10 to 14 days post-exposure and include coughing, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, and a distinctive red, blotchy skin rash. Treatment primarily involves managing symptoms and preventing dehydration.