Public health alert to bus passengers following measles death

An urgent public health alert has been issued to passengers on an Enfield bus route, following the death last week of a 48 year old passenger who contracted measles.

The alert was issued to passengers on the 115 Bus Eireann route, which travels through Enfield daily, following the death of the 48 year old a man in Mullingar Hospital.

The HSE issued the measles exposure alert to travellers who used the 115 bus (Dublin – Mullingar/Mullingar-Dublin) between Tuesday, 30th January and Monday, 5th February.

The HSE said that key message is to be alert for symptoms of measles for 21 days from exposure and to make sure that you and your family are up to date with MMR vaccines.

The alert follows on from comments last week by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that MMR vaccine uptake in Meath and Louth is as low as 80 percent, while a Navan GP has advised that people can check if they are up to date with the MMR vaccine at the Primary Care Centre at Railway Street in Navan.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said there is a high probability of a measles outbreak in Ireland among unvaccinated groups and a recent Irish study has also estimated that more than one in ten (11 per cent)of adults aged 18-34 are non-immune to measles.

Navan GP, Dr Seamus McMenamin said while he had not seen any patients with measles there was a real risk as it is estimated that more than a tenth of adults aged 18-34 are non-immune to measles and nearly 20 per cent of males aged 18-19 years do not have immunity.

"If you are unsure if your have been fully vaccinated your can check at the Public Health officer at Railway Street in Navan. They have records of the vaccinations and boosters," he said.

Dr McMenamin urged people to ensure that they and their children are vaccinated.

"One of the things the HSE asked us to do during Covid was to continue routine vaccinations, which we did, but there were people who didn't bring their children out during that period," he said.

"There was also a fall off in uptake of the MMR vaccine following the now discredited claims by Andrew Wakefield of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. That has been discredited and Dr Wakefield has been struck off, but there were people who were reluctant to have their children vaccinated at that time," he said.

He said the HSE were planning a catchup programme for college students, and Leaving Cert students who are not up to date on their vaccines. A catch-up programme has been launched for children up to ten years of age to get the vaccine.

He also said that people who have had the measles are immune to the disease.

Navan GP, Dr Marie Scully, said while she hadn't come across any cases "It is only a matter of time."

"We are doing a report on unvaccinated children. We intend to invite them to get it done then. Some won’t have by reasons of just being disorganised and forgetting it and a certain percentage will never get it done as their parents are adamantly anti-vaccine."

The signs and symptoms of measles to look out for include cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough, sore red eyes, a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above and a rash, which usually appears on head and neck first and spreads to rest of body.

The HSE has said if you have these symptoms, please seek medical advice. Phone ahead prior to attending any healthcare setting to let them know that you have these symptoms, so they can make necessary arrangements.

The HSE has said if you are not vaccinated against measles with two doses of MMR, please contact your GP as soon as possible during normal working hours to discuss whether you require vaccination. If you were born in Ireland before 1978 or had measles illness, you are unlikely to require vaccination, as you are probably immune.

The best way to protect yourself and those around you against measles is by MMR vaccination, which can be arranged with your GP.

A catch-up programme has been launched for children up to ten years of age to get the MMR vaccine and is free of charge at participating GPs.