Mumps on the increase

More than a hundred cases of mumps were reported in the north east in the last quarter, according to latest figures published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

A total of 133 cases of mumps were diagnosed in the north east during this period with more than half of these cases (56%) being reported in residents aged 14 – 24 years. This compares with 32 cases for the same quarter last year.

This increase is also being seen nationally with 930 cases of mumps reported in April to June, compared to 468 in the previous quarter.

As students return for the start of the academic year, the HPA is urging teenagers and young adults to protect themselves against vaccine preventable infections, such as mumps.

Julia Waller, immunisation lead for the HPA in the north east, said: “We have seen a sharp rise in mumps cases over recent years and teenagers and young adults who have not had two doses of MMR vaccine are particularly vulnerable.

“While most people recover from mumps within a week, it can still be a very unpleasant disease. Occasionally, some people may develop complications that can include inflammation of the pancreas; viral meningitis (inflammation of the brain); inflamed and swollen testicles in men and ovaries in women.

“There is no treatment for mumps but it can be prevented by the safe and highly effective MMR vaccine. It’s vital that children receive both doses of the vaccine, and ahead of returning to school or university after the holidays, we are urging parents to ensure their children have received the two doses, which are required to ensure the best protection.”

The latest data also shows a national increase in measles cases. Almost twice as many confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales have been reported in the first six months of 2012 (964) compared to the same period in 2011 (497). A total of 1,086 cases were reported in 2011, up from 380 in 2010. The cases identified so far this year have been associated with the ongoing Merseyside and Sussex outbreaks, as well as several smaller outbreaks in travelling communities across England in recent months.

“We aren’t yet seeing the same rise in cases of measles in the North East as many other parts of the country are reporting. But, this does not mean that people in the region are immune to the disease”, Julia added.

“Measles is potentially a serious illness which on rare occasions can be fatal. It is highly infectious and spreads very easily particularly in schools, colleges and universities. This is why it’s crucial that children and young adults are fully immunised with two doses of MMR.”

The latest published data on the uptake of both doses of the MMR vaccination in the North East is 96 per cent for the first dose and 91 per cent for the second dose.

Julia continued: “Although uptake of the MMR has improved in recent years it is still too low to provide people with the protection necessary to stop larger outbreaks among unvaccinated individuals.

“We would urge everyone to consult their family doctors about having two doses of MMR vaccine if they are currently unprotected. It’s not just students, any unvaccinated teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable and should seek an appointment with their GPs.

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. If you’ve missed out on MMR in the past it’s always possible to catch-up.”