Adult diagnosed with measles dies in Irish hospital

There has been an increase in cases across Europe in recent months.

An adult man's chest covered in the red spots of a measles rash
Measles on an adult An adult patient diagnosed with measles has died in hospital (Mumemories/Getty Images)

An adult diagnosed with measles has died in hospital in the first confirmed measles case in Ireland this year, the health service executive (HSE) has said.

The patient died in a hospital in the Dublin and Midlands health region after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland was at high risk of a measles outbreak.

There has been an increase in cases across Europe in recent months, with several fatalities recorded in Romania.

More than 170 measles cases were diagnosed in the West Midlands in England between December 2023 and mid-January 2024, although all regions in England have reported cases.

In Ireland, four measles cases were reported in 2023 and two in 2022.

While no cases were reported in 2021, there were five incidences recorded in 2020, the HSE said, with no deaths reported in any of those years.

The HSE said its Health Protection Surveillance Centre was notified of the death.

“HSE public health teams, along with the HSE measles national incident management team (IMT), are taking all necessary public health actions in relation to the case,” the HSE said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The HSE measles IMT was established in response to a recent rise in measles cases in the UK and Europe.

“The HSE will keep the public informed of further measures and, in the meantime, anyone with concerns should contact their GP.”

Measles is highly contagious, and while often associated with a rash, the virus can spread around the body, potentially leading to severe complications.

It usually takes around seven to 14 days for the first symptoms to appear, with those infected typically suffering with a high temperature, a cough, runny or blocked nose, and red, watery eyes, followed a few days later by the rash.

Chief medical officer Breda Smyth has said she is concerned that Ireland is at high risk of an outbreak because the vaccination rate is under the 95% needed to stop the virus spreading.

The update rate for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is at 89.2% in Ireland, and in some areas has fallen below 80%.

On Tuesday, Mr Donnelly briefed Cabinet on the risk of a measles outbreak and said about one in five young men in Ireland aged around 19-21 are not vaccinated against the virus.

Authorities believe misinformation in the past affected the number of children who received the MMR vaccine.

An MMR catch-up programme launched in November 2023 through GPs aims for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated to opt in.

The vaccine is free from GPs for children aged 10 and under.