Man dies in hospital in first Irish measles death of year as HSE taking ‘all necessary public health actions’

A MAN who had caught measles has died in Ireland, it was confirmed tonight.

The death of the person, whose age has not been released, happened in a hospital in the Dublin and Midlands Health Region.

A man who had caught measles has died in an Irish hospitalGetty Images – Getty

It had been the first confirmed measles case notified in Ireland in 2024.

The fatality came to light just one day after the Government urged more people to come forward for vaccination amid fears of an outbreak.

In a statement the HSE said its public health teams and Measles National Incident Management Team “are taking all necessary public health actions in relation to the case”.

A spokesperson said: “The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been notified of the death of an adult with confirmed measles, which took place in a hospital in the Dublin and Midlands Health Region.

“This is the first confirmed measles case notified in Ireland in 2024.

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

“The HSE offers MMR vaccine to protect against measles to all children as part of its childhood immunisation schedule. 

“The HSE also offers a catch-up MMR option for children aged 10 years and under who may have missed out on vaccination.

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

There were four measles cases reported in 2023, two cases reported in 2022, no cases were reported in 2021 and five cases were reported in 2020.

There were no deaths reported in any of those years.

Measles is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, particularly in children under one year of age, pregnant women and the immunosuppressed.

‘Epidemic’ fears

On Tuesday Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned of a possible outbreak of the condition.

He announced the launch of a measles vaccine ‘catch-up’ programme to restore immunity cover to the internationally recommended standard uptake rate of 95 percent.

He told RTE that almost 90 per cent of people in Ireland are vaccinated.

Mr Donnelly said: “What we’re seeing is a variance around the country in places like Louth and Meath for example, it’s down as low as 80 per cent.”

Cases are rising across the EU and research at home reveals pockets of low vaccination rates.

Young men unvaccinated

Latest figures show that one in five men aged between 18 and 21 are not inoculated against the highly contagious virus.

He said: “What we’re finding is that about one in five young men – 18, 19, 20 21 years of age – are unvaccinated.

“That does put them at risk and potentially puts those around them at risk if there is an outbreak.”

He said Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth “is particularly concerned about parts of the country where the vaccination rate is much lower”.

A catch-up programme has now been launched for children up to ten years of age to get the MMR vaccine, which covers mumps, measles and rubella.

It amounts to the only protection against measles.

The minister said the free-of-charge programme would get underway at participating GPs.

Catch-up programme plans

The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive are also putting together options for separate catch-up programmes in schools and at third-level institutions.

The Public Health Agency said that the first and second doses of the MMR vaccine will be offered to anyone aged between 12 months and 25 years who missed it the first time around.

Of further concern are the results of one recent Irish study which said some 11 per cent of adults aged 18-34 are non-immune to measles, meaning they could catch it whether vaccinated or not.

That issue has been monitored over the past nine months prompted by an increase in cases around Europe, particularly in Romania where fatalities have been logged.

Mr Donnelly said there was a “significant risk” of a rise in cases here due to the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

More than 170 cases have been diagnosed in the West Midlands region in England between December and mid-January 2024.

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