Measles cases in north of Ireland 'likely' after adult death in Leinster and 'alarming' rise across Europe

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The Department of Health has advised that it’s likely there will be new cases of measles in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks and months following an increase of cases across Europe and the death of an adult in the south.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Lourda Geoghegan said that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine offers the best protection against the emergence of new measles infections locally.

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the south confirmed last week that it has been notified of the death of an adult with confirmed measles in a hospital in the Dublin and Midlands Health Region. This was the first confirmed measles case notified in Ireland in 2024.

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HSE public health teams, along with the HSE Measles National Incident Management Team (IMT), said they are “taking all necessary public health actions in relation to the case”. The HSE Measles IMT was established in the south in response to a recent rise in measles cases in the UK and Europe.

Professor Lourda Geoghegan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Health Minister Robin Swann.Professor Lourda Geoghegan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Health Minister Robin Swann.
Professor Lourda Geoghegan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Health Minister Robin Swann.

There were four measles cases reported in the Republic in 2023, two case 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.

In the north, Professor Geoghegan warned that outbreaks of measles could occur unless people act to increase the uptake of the MMR vaccine.

“There has been an alarming rise in measles infections across Europe this winter, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is currently reporting an increase in measles cases in England, and sadly last week health authorities in Ireland reported the death of an adult from measles.

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“While there have been no confirmed cases of measles in Northern Ireland since 2017, it is only a matter of time before the illness is reported here. The Department is working very closely with the Public Health Agency to monitor our situation locally.”

Professor Geoghegan said that the most effective way to prevent measles is by maintaining a high uptake of two doses of the MMR vaccine.

"It is essential that our uptake of the full course (two doses) of the MMR vaccine in Northern Ireland is increased and we all act now to address the threat of measles.”

Latest figures show that in Northern Ireland around 89% of children had received their first dose of MMR vaccine at two years of age and 85% had received their second dose of MMR at five years of age.

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The department said this means that “we have fallen behind the WHO recommended uptake of 95% for two doses of MMR”, and that achieving this uptake will protect individuals and our population from the risks of measles spreading.

Professor Geoghegan added: “We forget, because we do not now see it regularly, that measles can cause children to become very sick and some who contract measles will suffer life changing complications. We need to remember that measles can cause serious infection and illness in adults. Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nose or throat secretions.

“We have launched an MMR catch-up campaign in recent weeks across Northern Ireland. Through this campaign we are offering MMR vaccination to those aged up to 25 years old who may not have been vaccinated at all or who are only partially vaccinated.”

Information on Trust clinics in the north can be found at

In the south further information about vaccination is available at

The HSE has advised that measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause serious complications, particularly in children under one year of age, pregnant women, and the immunosuppressed.

It advises that signs and symptoms of measles include: Cold-like symptoms such as aches and pains, a runny nose, sneezing and a cough; Sore red eyes that may be sensitive to light; A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above, which may reach around 40 degrees Celsius; Small greyish-white spots in your mouth; Loss of appetite; Tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy; Rash, which usually appears on head and neck first and spreads to rest of body.

Serious complications of measles include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain); one in five infected may need to go to hospital and it can be fatal.