Students urged to receive measles vaccination as fifteen cases reported

The HSE West is urging all third level students to ensure they are fully protected against measles.

The warning comes in the wake of 15 cases being identified in Galway, Mayo and Kerry in the past six weeks.

These are linked to an outbreak of this highly contagious infection among students or their contacts attending NUI Galway at the end of March.

A spokesperson for the local health authority says those affected by the virus are aged 14 to 33 years. The average age is 20.

Ten cases were confirmed through laboratory tests, according to a statement from the HSE. The majority of the cases - for which doctors could establish vaccination status - were unvaccinated.

“Vaccination status was reported on 12 of the 15 cases, eight were unvaccinated. Four cases reported either one or two doses of MMR vaccine but for only one of the individuals who reported two doses of MMR were records available to confirm vaccination.”

The HSE West’s department of public health is appealing to students attending higher education colleges in the city to ensure they have received two doses of MMR vaccine to protect themselves, their contacts and the wider community against measles.

One dose is not enough because it protects only about 95 per cent of individuals.

“Due to the expected interaction between NUI Galway students with other university/college students in the western region and across the country, the HSE would like to remind all third level university students in Ireland that they too should ensure that they are fully protected against measles and have received two doses of MMR vaccine. Most Irish students would have received two doses as part of the national immunisation programme either from their GP or the HSE services.

“If they do not have any record of MMR vaccination they should contact their GP or student health service and obtain vaccination as soon as possible.

“Parents of all children should use this opportunity to ensure that their children are vaccinated with MMR. The first dose is usually given at 12 months of age and the second dose at four to five years of age.”

Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, the HSE West’s public health director for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, said the only way to prevent measles was by vaccination.

He stressed that hand washing was “really important” in controlling the spread of measles and other infectious diseases.

The key symptoms to watch out for are: skin rash, high temperature, cough, runny nose, red or watery eyes.

Dr O’Donovan said it was “absolutely imperative” students who were ill did not attend the university until four days after the rash appeared and they were fully well.

“Students are being advised to contact their GP by phone if unwell; they should not attend the GP clinic without ringing first.”

Unvaccinated housemates of measles’ sufferers should not attend college for a number of days depending on when they were exposed to the infection. This is to avoid transmitting measles to others.

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