Number of mumps cases triples

By Rebecca SheppardTHE number of cases of mumps in Suffolk has almost tripled in the past year, new figures have revealed.At the same time the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) combined vaccine remains dangerously low at 84%, compared with a target of about 95%.

By Rebecca Sheppard

THE number of cases of mumps in Suffolk has almost tripled in the past year, new figures have revealed.

At the same time the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) combined vaccine remains dangerously low at 84%, compared with a target of about 95%.

Dr Torbjorn Sundkvist, consultant in communicable disease control for Suffolk Health Protection Unit, said there were 69 cases of the virus last year.


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The figures, contained in his annual report for 2004, showed a worrying upwards trend in the cases of mumps over the past two years.

In 2002 there were only 12 cases of mumps, but in 2003 the figure doubled to 24 and last year it almost tripled again.

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Dr Sundkvist said it had been notified of 14 cases of mumps in the first 55 days of this year - making an average of seven cases a month.

In his report, Dr Sundkvist said the "community outbreak" of mumps, mostly among people aged between 15 and 25, was the main problem in Suffolk last year.

He added: "It is clear that this infection started during the autumn and the beginning of the university year has been a factor in the timing of the outbreak.

"There have been large scale outbreaks of mumps in the UK during 2004 with universities being most affected. This has been an expected epidemic.

"Epidemiologists predicted that we could have outbreaks of mumps during 2004 as cohorts of youngsters who only had one MMR had accumulated in the population.

"At the same time naturally circulating mumps in the community were absent until now, when large numbers of susceptible people were available to sustain an outbreak."

Meanwhile, the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella combined vaccine remains dangerously low and Dr Sundkvist said that was of "great concern".

While the coverage of the vaccine should be about 95%, last year the figure stood at about 84%, jeopardising the herd immunity that stops any spread of the disease by reducing the number of people who are susceptible.

Dr Sundkvist said parents who chose not to opt for the combined jab were making a "serious mistake" and he added there was no link between autism and MMR.

He warned youngsters who did not have the second part of the MMR immunisation were left with only an 80% protection against mumps.

"Clearly mumps is an uncomfortable illness, but most people do recover. Compared to measles it's not as dangerous," said Dr Sundkvist.

"However, it could be serious and there are complications. You can get viral meningitis and it is clearly very distressing. There is a good vaccine around which is the MMR and if people have had one MMR they should have the second."

Dr Amelia Cummins, consultant on communicable disease control for Essex Health Protection Unit, said there was also a problem in the county with an increase of cases in mumps.

"The trouble is there are gaps in immunity in people aged 16 to 25. That has become apparent because we are seeing more mumps in that particular age group," she added.

"It's a double whammy really because if you are within the 16-25 age cohort, you may not have received two doses in vaccine and you would have grown up in a period where mumps wasn't so common.

"The reason it seems to have taken off is that teenagers are vulnerable and students in particular mix very closely with people of their own age group. We recommend that people who know they haven't had two doses of mumps go to see their GP."

Mumps is a viral infection that causes the swelling of the salivary glands in the cheeks, leading to a fever and difficulty in swallowing.

It does not usually cause lasting effects, but if caught when older can result in complications such as viral meningitis, pancreatitis, testicular or ovarian swelling and even deafness.

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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