Sharp increase in confirmed cases raises concern among health officials over uptake of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
Health officials are reporting sharp rises in mumps as well as measles in England and Wales as efforts continue to persuade families of 10- to 18-year-olds to get their children vaccinated with the triple measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Confirmed cases of mumps up to the end of May in Wales stand at 76, compared with 77 in the whole of 2011 and 88 in 2012. The rise comes as the measles outbreak centred on Swansea slows with 20 more reported cases in the past week, taking the total to 1,191.
Of these, 422 have been confirmed in the laboratory but tests are not being conducted on those who have classic measles symptoms, have not had two MMR jabs or have strong links to others with measles. Numbers of confirmed cases are running about two weeks behind those reported because of the time taken to conduct the tests.
About 35,000 children and young people between 10 and 18 are thought to remain unvaccinated despite exhortations of health officials, who organised special sessions in schools and on Saturdays, and of family doctors.
Dr Marion Lyons, director of health protection for Public Health Wales, said: “Outbreaks of mumps very often occur in older children and teenagers and there is a very real concern that while we have too few people aged 10 to 18 vaccinated with MMR in Wales, they are at risk of mumps as well as measles.
“Mumps is always circulating in Wales but the number of cases we have seen this year is particularly high. It is important for young people and their parents to be aware that this can be a serious infection.”
In England, where confirmed measles cases in the first four months of the year stood at 962, the confirmed mumps cases from January to March stood at 948 compared with 478 in the last quarter of 2012, although the acceleration was not as quick as in some previous outbreaks. Most patients have been 20 or over.
In 1998, the year the discredited Andrew Wakefield first raised the idea of an MMR link to autism, there were 119 cases. The number of cases topped 1,500 in 2003 and there were well over 43,000 in 2005, a year that prompted crash vaccination programmes among university students. In 2011 and 2012 there were more than 2,450 cases.