Doctors are urging those in high-risk groups to get vaccinated.

THE HSE South are urging parents to ensure their children are protected against measles following an outbreak of the disease in West Cork.

The outbreak is predominantly affecting teenagers who are not vaccinated.

In the last four weeks 25 measles cases have been reported.

This compares to no cases for the first three months of 2012.

The majority of notified cases have been in the 12-18 years age group with the oldest case reported being 18 years of age.

No deaths have occurred and none of the teenagers were vaccinated.

“Measles can be a serious and potentially fatal illness and children who have not been vaccinated are particularly at risk of measles during this time, said Dr Fiona Ryan, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, HSE South.

“This outbreak is affecting children who are not vaccinated. Siblings of children with measles, if not vaccinated, are also recommended to stay out of school or child care during the incubation period (usually around 14 days but may be up to 21 days), to ensure that they do not transmit infection to other children who may be too young for vaccination or be at increased risk due to other conditions”.

Measles is a highly infectious disease, one in 20 will get pneumonia, one in 1,000 will get encephalitis and one to two in 1,000 will die from the disease.

To be protected you either need to have received the MMR vaccine or to have had the disease. There is no other way to prevent measles infection.

Two doses of MMR are recommended; the first at 12 months of age, which is given by a GP, and the second at four to five years of age, which is usually given in schools by the HSE School’s Immunisation Team.

Parents should check their child’s immunisation records and determine if they have received two doses of MMR.

If no records are available then the child should be brought to the GP for vaccination. All children/teenagers who have not received two doses of MMR vaccine can receive MMR vaccine from their GP free of charge. MMR given to a child within 72 hours of exposure to measles may prevent measles.

More information on measles and the MMR vaccine is available from www.immunisation.ie and www.hpsc.ie.