Lack of immunity means mumps cases rise

MUMPS cases in Suffolk have shot up to more than twenty times the level they were three years ago, it emerged today.Figures from the county's Health Protection Unit (HPU) show reported cases have risen from just 12 in the whole of 2002 to 105 in the first four months of 2005 alone.

MUMPS cases in Suffolk have shot up to more than twenty times the level they were three years ago, it emerged today.

Figures from the county's Health Protection Unit (HPU) show reported cases have risen from just 12 in the whole of 2002 to 105 in the first four months of 2005 alone.

Gillian Brown, communicable disease control nurse with the HPU, said: "There is nothing unusual happening in Suffolk that is not happening elsewhere in the country.

"There have been isolated outbreaks but it is not an epidemic."

Mrs Brown said the dramatic rises have come about because the population has lost it's "herd immunity" -i.e. there are too few people that have been vaccinated or come into contact with the disease in the past to help protect the rest of the population.

She said: "You can never ensure you've vaccinated absolutely everyone against a disease but there comes a point where you've vaccinated enough people that it protects the rest of the population, because the disease is not spreading.

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"With something like mumps you probably need to vaccinate about 90pc but at the moment it is much lower than that."

The disease is currently most common among 16-25 years olds as they are unlikely to be old enough to have been in contact with anyone that had mumps, and too old to have had the MMR vaccine as a child.

It can also affect vulnerable children and the HPU is urging all parents to get their children to have the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Fears over a possible link with autism have prevented many parents from allowing their children to have the jab, which has also helped to lower herd immunity in the community.

Mrs Brown said there are currently no plans to introduce mass vaccination but all GPs across the country have been advised to check that children have received the MMR vaccine when they go for their final boosters at the age of around 15.

She added: "Anyone who is between 16-25 and concerned they have not been vaccinated should contact their GP. Anyone older than this will not need to worry probably have developed natural immunity anyway."

Nationally, almost 5000 cases of mumps were diagnosed in the first month of 2005 alone.

The mumps virus is contagious and spreads in tiny drops of fluid from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected. It can be passed to others through sneezing, coughing, or even laughing. The virus can also spread to other people through direct contact, such as picking up tissues or using drinking glasses that have been used by the infected person.

It begins with a headache, followed by fever and swelling of the parotid saliva glands which are found toward the back of each cheek, in the area between the ear and jaw.

Mumps can also spread to other areas of the body and, in adolescent and adult males, may result in the development of orchitis, an inflammation of the testicles.

Serious side effects are rare but can include encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). >

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