Surge in mumps cases causes alarm

PARENTS have been warned of the consequences of not vaccinating their children with the MMR jab after figures revealed a “worrying” surge in mumps cases.

Lizzie Parry

PARENTS have been warned of the consequences of not vaccinating their children with the MMR jab after figures revealed a “worrying” surge in mumps cases.

New figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have revealed a sharp rise in cases of the viral illness from January to July this year.

In Suffolk, there has been a jump of 80%, with 27 recorded cases in that time period compared with 15 cases in 2008.

And in the East of England the rise is 243% from 467 confirmed cases this year compared with just 136 in the same period in 2008.

Hamid Mahgoub, a consultant in communicable diseases for Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire HPA, said the recent outbreak was “worrying” and reiterated the need for children to be vaccinated.

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He said mumps can lead to some very serious complications including meningitis and inflammation of the brain, which can be life-threatening.

“People can be completely protected against if we succeed in all the community being vaccinated with this very effective safe vaccine, which also protects against measles and rubella,” he said.

“The MMR jab is very important, I cannot emphasise it enough.

“We need about 95% of the community vaccinated to ensure the virus does not get the chance to be transmitted.”

Latest figures reveal that, in Suffolk, 85% of two-year-olds are immunised compared to 84% in the East of England.

For five-year-olds in Suffolk 80% of the age group are vaccinated compared to 78% in the eastern region.

When uptake of the vaccine is low outbreaks are likely to happen due to the contagious nature of both mumps and measles.

With a high proportion of the community not protected the illnesses can multiply at an alarming rate.

Dr Mahgoub urged parents to make sure their children have had both doses of the MMR jab as soon as possible.

He added: “It will not only protect against the surge we are seeing at the moment in mumps but also against measles and the serious complications that can arise from mumps.

“It is quite worrying. We really do not want to see this virus being transmitted when we know this can be stopped through the use of this safe and effective vaccine.”

MUMPS is a viral illness which is highly contagious.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, and the commonly associated swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands, located just below the front of the ear.

In some cases infected people suffer swelling of the ovaries and testicles, causing pain and extreme discomfort.

But around one third of infected people, especially children, show no symptoms at all.

The illness, although not life-threatening itself, can cause very serious complications.

They include meningitis, inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal column, encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain, arthritis, kidney problems and deafness.

The illness is contagious seven days before and nine days after the onset of any symptoms.

An infected person is most contagious 48 hours before the appearance of symptoms.

The HPA said young people aged between 15 and 24 years old are most affected in the East of England making up 73% of all cases reported in 2009.

Children should have two doses of MMR to ensure the best protection. The first dose of the vaccine should be given at 13 months old and the second at around three years and four months old.