Fall in uptake of MMR vaccine makes mumps a nationwide epidemic in UK
Fears are growing that the UK is in the midst of a mumps epidemic.
Statistics published in the British Medical Journal have revealed increasing incidence of mumps and researchers warn that the UK is in the “grips of a nationwide epidemic”.
Doctors say they are seeing a mumps epidemic after a 10-fold increase in suspected cases in England and Wales compared with last year.
Health experts have recommended that all children and young adults, particularly those at school and in further education should be offered the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The World Health Organisation recommends MMR coverage of 90% to prevent mumps but the uptake among two-year-olds in the UK fell from around 92% in early 1995 to around 80% in 2003/4, according to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ team.
Researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust say that the fall in uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine may lead to more cases of the illness in younger children.
Doctors, who are required by law to report cases, notified that in January alone there were almost 5,000 cases.
Most patients, say the researchers, were aged between 19 and 23 but they expect cases in younger children to occur due to the decrease in uptake of MMR among infants.
Research published in 1998 which suggested a link between MMR and autism, a claim strongly rejected by the majority of experts, and consequently disproved in a number of later studies, caused panic among some parents.
Mumps usually begins with a headache and fever for a day or two before swelling of the salivary glands in front of and below the ears, which lasts four to eight days. The mouth may also feel dry, chewing and swallowing may be sore, while fever, headaches, tiredness, lack of appetite, and mild stomach pain may also occur.
It is usually a mild illness but there may be complications including meningitis, deafness in one ear, and inflammation of the pancreas or heart, there may also be inflammation of the testicles which is uncommon in young children but happens to one in four males over 12 who have the illness.
No medication kills the mumps virus and treatment aims to alleviate the symptoms until the body’s immune system copes with it.
Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that over 4,000 more mumps cases have been reported this year when compared to the previous comparable period. This equates to in excess of 8,000 notified cases of mumps.
Most people contracting mumps are in the 19-23-year-old age group and researchers have expressed concerns that this may spread to younger children who have not been immunized.
Mumps is a viral infection that is transmitted through airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of infected people.
It is spread through being in close contact with an infected person and is spread by kissing, coughing or sneezing.
These factors mean students are particularly at risk.
Up to 75% of cases notified by GPs are confirmed as mumps once laboratory tests have been carried out.
The combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccination was not introduced until 1988.
According to the agency most cases were in adults born before 1988, when the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab was introduced, who would not have been routinely scheduled to have the vaccine.
The Health Protection Agency, in another report also say that in 2004 the number of mumps notifications in England and Wales increased to 16,436 - up from 4,204 the year before.
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