With European Championships kicking-off soon, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is calling on football fans and their children travelling to one of the host countries, Ukraine, to get protected against measles. The eastern European nation is currently experiencing an outbreak of the disease, which is very infectious.
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “Anyone travelling to Ukraine in particular should make sure their children and themselves are fully immunised with two doses of MMR before they go.
“However, measles can be life-threatening and spreads easily to those who are unprotected, so even if you aren’t planning to travel to watch the football, you should get the MMR anyway if you haven’t already done so.
“Although most common in children, measles can occur at any age. It is very infectious and can be caught either through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when the patient coughs or sneezes, so events like football matches with large crowds offer the ideal conditions for it to spread.”
Over the past year there has been a sharp increase in cases of the measles virus in several other European countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands, and closer to home in Merseyside. Measles also remains common in other more exotic destinations in Africa and Asia.
Dr Smithson continued: “MMR immunisation is the safest and most effective way to prevent measles infection and it is never too late to get vaccinated. Children and young people of all ages should have two doses of the MMR vaccine to ensure they are protected.
“It is vitally important to ensure children’s and young people's vaccinations are up to date, particularly if they are in groups or settings where they may be at risk of getting an infection or, if they are infected, of passing on infection to other vulnerable people.
"In Northern Ireland we have had high uptake levels for MMR, which is why we have seen very few case of measles compared with both the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s worth getting the vaccine even a couple of days before going away, as the vaccine will protect as long as it is given before being exposed to measles. Being fully protected means having had two doses of MMR,” concluded Dr Smithson.
Contact the PHA press office on 028 9055 3663
Notes to the editor
At 5 years of age
1 dose of MMR 2 doses of MMR
Northern Ireland 96.9% 91.1%
UK average 93.4% 86.7%