Mumps cases amongst young adults continue to increase

Following a continued increase in cases of mumps amongst teenagers and young adults in recent years, the Health Protection Agency’s local teams have been working with schools and universities where outbreaks have taken place, to ensure that students are vaccinated.

During the first three quarters of 2004, 3756 confirmed cases of mumps were reported and as in recent years, the majority of cases (more than 70%) were amongst teenagers and young adults (born 1982 - 1990). There has been an increase in cases since 1999, when 372 confirmed cases were reported, compared to 495 cases in 2002 and 1529 cases in 2003. However, in each of the three years prior to 1999 between 100 and 200 cases were reported.

Dr Mary Ramsay, who is responsible for monitoring the MMR programme said,

“This continuing increase of mumps cases is largely amongst teenagers and young adults who are too old to have been offered the MMR vaccine routinely, as they were at toddler age in 1988, when the vaccine was introduced.

These young adults will be mainly protected against measles and rubella, however only a few will have received MMR vaccine and therefore will be protected against mumps. Most will have had the combined MR vaccine (measles and rubella vaccine) and hardly any will have been eligible for a second dose of MMR (which was introduced in 1996), which is important in securing good levels of protection.

As those in this group have grown older, these cases have moved from being mainly in secondary schools, to being in further education colleges and universities. This increase is not due to the decline in MMR vaccine uptake, however, it does illustrate clearly why it is so important that children are given good protection against all three diseases.

The Health Protection Agency and the Department of Health recommend that school leavers and others in this age group who have not received MMR vaccine, or have only had one dose should be offered MMR."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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