Auckland health officials have reported an additional 200 confirmed and probable mumps cases in the past month, bringing the case total to 1,003. This is the most cases seen in one year in decades.
Low vaccination rates are fueling Auckland’s mumps outbreak. “The majority of cases are aged 10 to 29 years as this age group has had lower than average immunization rates,“ says Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) Clinical Director, Dr Julia Peters. Around 80 percent of the current cases were not fully vaccinated.
A senior lecturer in vaccinology at Auckland University, Helen Petousis-Harris, said it had reached a threshold where it would keep spreading until it ran out of people who could contract it, as reported on Radio New Zealand.
“The only way at this stage that you can prevent further spread is to reduce your susceptible people and the only way you can do that is by vaccinating them,” she said.
ARPHS has called this the “lost generation” and they are facing a triple threat of potentially serious diseases.
This lost generation of the unprotected is partly due to the now discredited MMR controversy from 1998 onwards. There is also a pool of adults who may have missed out on receiving the second dose of the MMR vaccine when they were children, as the timing of this dose was moved from 11 years to 4 years in 2001.
Mumps is a contagious disease that is spread when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. Sharing items, like cups or drink cans, with infected people can also spread the virus. The virus can also live for several hours on items and surfaces touched by an infected person. Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands (under the ears or jaw) on one or both sides of the face. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.
- Vaccines: How they work and some common misconceptions
- Vaccines: Epidemiology professor tackles anti-vaccination statements
- Vaccines in teens: Poll shows many parents don’t know when or if their teen needs another vaccine
- Bacterial meningitis and vaccinations: A discussion with Dr. Leonard Friedland