Irish officials warn parents about measles outbreak

Parents in the south of Ireland have been urged to ensure their children are protected against measles following a recent outbreak of the disease, the Irish Times reported Jan. 26.

The region's public health department said there had been an outbreak in the counties of Cork and Kerry, particularly among children who have not been given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Dr. Fiona Ryan, a consultant in public health medicine, said parents of children who had not been immunized should bring them for vaccination as soon as possible.

The most important part of controlling an outbreak of measles is to ensure that there is a high level of immunity in the population.

Measles can be prevented by immunization with a highly effective vaccine that is part of the MMR immunization.

The health department said there had been a "significant increase" in measles in Ireland, with 165 cases last year compared to 55 in 2008.

It said the increase had been even more noticeable in Cork and Kerry with 53 cases in 2009 compared to five in 2008.

Ireland experienced its last major measles outbreak in 2000, when more than 1,600 cases and three deaths occurred, the health department said.

For the first two weeks of this year, there have been 15 cases in Cork and 11 in Kerry.

"Measles is highly infectious and can cause severe illness and occasionally cause death," Ryan said. "As vaccination with the MMR is the only way to prevent measles infection, all parents must make sure their children have received the recommended two doses of the vaccine."