‘Fake news’ about MMR vac­cine blamed for rise in measles cases here

Irish Independent - - News - Laura Lynott

MEASLES cases have al­most tre­bled from just 25 cases in 2017 to 66 this year, as the dis­ease en­ters the coun­try via EU hol­i­day­mak­ers and im­mi­grants.

Sta­tis­tics ob­tained by the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent re­veal the rise, with the spread of the dis­ease across Europe be­ing partly be­ing blamed on “fake news” sto­ries about the vac­cine.

EU coun­tries af­fected by out­breaks in­clude France, Greece, Ro­ma­nia and Italy – coun­tries where the measles/mumps/ rubella (MMR) vac­cine has his­tor­i­cally seen a low up­take.

An anti-vac­cine move­ment is gain­ing trac­tion in some ar­eas, in­clud­ing Ri­mini, Italy, a re­sort many Ir­ish hol­i­day­mak­ers visit each year.

Measles be­came head­line news here ear­lier this year when it emerged two cases had at­tended sev­eral hos­pi­tals in Dublin.

The HSE con­firmed it had been no­ti­fied of four fur­ther cases in Dublin, af­fect­ing two adults and two chil­dren.

“These four in­di­vid­u­als are likely to have de­vel­oped measles from con­tact with one of the two ear­lier cases at hos­pi­tals in Dublin,” it warned.

“The HSE re­quests peo­ple to con­tinue to be vig­i­lant about measles.”

The Pub­lic Health De­part­ment has sent an alert to all emer­gency de­part­ments and GPs in Dublin, Kil­dare and Wick­low, in­form­ing them to be vig­i­lant about measles.

New sta­tis­tics com­piled by Dr He­lena Mur­ray and Dr Suzanne Cot­ter, both spe­cial­ists in pub­lic health medicine at the HSE, show the mid-west of Ire­land has been worst af­fected this year with 33 cases. The east, in­clud­ing Dublin and sur­round­ing ar­eas, has wit­nessed about half as many cases, while the south-east has seen 10.

Re­turn­ing

Dr Mur­ray said measles of­ten af­fected peo­ple who had moved to Ire­land, or those who had been on hol­i­day and were re­turn­ing.

While the State has a very good MMR vac­ci­na­tion rate of 95pc, the dis­ease is still en­ter­ing the coun­try.

There have been no recorded deaths from measles in Ire­land since 2000, when there were more than 1,600 cases over­all.

Three chil­dren died from the ill­ness that year in Dublin.

Around that time the vac­ci­na­tion rate had dropped af­ter false claims in the UK that the MMR could lead to autism.

GP An­gela Parvu, of Alfa Medics surgery in the North­side Shop­ping Cen­tre in Dublin, said this type of “fake news” was still be­ing spread – with many fear­ful of MMR and other vac­cines.

“I al­ways check with peo­ple who’ve moved to Ire­land to see if their chil­dren are vac­ci­nated,” Dr Parvu said.

“And many pa­tients don’t want the MMR and other vac­cines. They tell me about sto­ries that they’ve heard on so­cial net­works, that are fake news.

“I ex­plain I have my own chil­dren and it’s my duty of care to vac­ci­nate them for their safety. It is ev­ery par­ent’s duty.”

Med­i­cal ex­perts from the HSE said a vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme may need to be con­sid­ered to en­cour­age those born in the late 1990s to 2000s to have the MMR vac­cine.

Dr Brenda Cor­co­ran, con­sul­tant in pub­lic health medicine, said once one per­son had measles, they could in­fect up to 20 peo­ple.

“One in 10 who get measles will get pneu­mo­nia, one in 1,000 will die. We don’t want any­one or any child to be put at risk,” she said.

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