Ireland's children hardest hit in new measles outbreak

Children younger than 5 have been the main victims of a measles outbreak sweeping Ireland that has hospitalized one in three of those affected, The Irish Independent reported Feb. 13.

There has been a 43-fold increase in the number of recorded cases in the first six weeks of this year, when compared with the same period in 2009.

Two people with the highly infectious disease, which can cause severe illness and, occasionally, death, have required intensive care treatment.

Children and teenagers have taken the biggest hit and, unusually, there have also been a small number of cases in people older than 30.

Now schools and colleges have been advised to be on the alert for symptoms in both pupils and staff. Schools have been told to warn parents and staff about the outbreak and that non-immune children and staff are at risk and can also put others at risk.

So far this year, 173 cases have been reported, compared with four in the same period in 2009.

Health officials fear that if its spread is not halted it could reach the level seen in 2000, which resulted in more than 1,600 cases and three deaths. In 2004, 330 cases were recorded.