Irish measles: An adult dies in hospital after contracting the disease
An adult who contracted measles has died in hospital in Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE), the country’s public healthcare system, said.
This is the first confirmed case of measles in Ireland this year.
There were four measles cases in 2023, two in 2022, none in 2021, and five in 2020, with no deaths reported in any of those years, according to the HSE.
It comes as health officials across Europe and the UK warn of rising cases amid falling vaccination rates.
The adult died in hospital in the Dublin and Midlands Health District, which covers Leinster. The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Center (HPSC) has been notified.
Public health teams and the National Measles Incident Management Team (IMT) said they were “taking all necessary public health measures in relation to the case.”
Ireland’s chief medical officer, Professor Breda Smith, said she was “deeply concerned” there was a “significant risk” of a measles outbreak in the country, and urged people to take the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
In a video shared on social media on Thursday, which was originally published last month, Professor Smith said vaccination levels had fallen below 90% nationally, and below 80% in some Irish counties.
She said that about 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease.
Since 2020, most confirmed measles cases in Ireland have reported recent travel to countries where outbreaks are ongoing, the HPSC said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread by coughing and sneezing and can be serious at any age.
The illness often begins with a high fever and rash, which usually goes away within 10 days — but complications can include pneumonia, meningitis, blindness and seizures.
About 42,200 people were infected in 2023, compared to 941 during all of 2022.
The MMR vaccine is given in two doses – the first when the child is about one year old and the second when the child is about three years and four months old.
The World Health Organization believes that the rise in cases is the result of a decrease in the number of children vaccinated against the disease during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vaccination rates for the first dose of the MMR vaccine fell from 96% in 2019 to 93% in 2022 across Europe. Taking the second dose decreased from 92% to 91% during the same period.
This seemingly slight decline in vaccination rates means that more than 1.8 million children in Europe were not vaccinated against measles during those two years.
“Vaccination is the only way to protect children from this potentially dangerous disease,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director, said last December.
Suspected cases of the disease are also on the rise in England.
There were a further 118 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles in England in the past week, bringing the total from 1 October to 465, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
The NHS added that the West Midlands remains the epicenter of the outbreak with 71% of all confirmed cases in the English language, which is a “disproportionately high rate”.