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SASTM Newsflash - Mumps (Western Australia)


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SASTM Newsflash




Warning on mumps outbreak

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An outbreak of mumps in Perth has worsened, with health authorities confirming 30 cases since late December [2012] compared with the usual handful in a year. Several patients have been admitted to hospital, though none has become seriously ill.


The Health Department's latest Virus Watch bulletin said there had been 3 new cases in the past week and urged GPs to be on the lookout for patients with the highly infectious viral illness. It said most of the Perth patients had been infected locally and were older teenagers or adults aged in their 20s and 30s, and many were partially or fully vaccinated against mumps. A department spokeswoman said yesterday that none of the confirmed cases was in young children. "We are not aware of any cases with serious complications, although a few cases have been admitted to hospital with [mild] complications, including orchitis (swollen testicles) in men and meningitis," she said.

Although mumps is highly contagious, it is rarely seen any more because of the widespread use of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in childhood. But if untreated, it can lead to serious complications including meningitis, miscarriage, encephalitis, hearing loss and pancreatitis.


The department said the cases did not appear to be linked, suggesting mumps virus was in wide circulation and there were many other cases in the community not being detected. It said GPs should test for mumps in all patients showing signs, regardless of whether they had been vaccinated, using blood and urine tests and throat swabs. Symptoms of mumps include fever, loss of appetite, tiredness and headaches, followed by swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands. The infection spreads when a person breathes in mumps virus, usually after someone infected has coughed or sneezed. Doctors say people born after

1965 need to ensure they received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine and not just one, which might not provide enough protection.


Communicated by: ProMED-mail


Mumps disease occurs world-wide. Mumps vaccine is an attenuated virus included as a component of the MMR triple vaccine of childhood. Typically outbreaks of mumps occur where young adults are congregated together in university dormitories or under similar circumstances. Indeed nowadays some universities and similar institutions may require confirmation of previous mumps vaccination in childhood prior to admission of applicants. Even so outbreaks are not infrequent in such circumstances, hence the recommendation for revaccination wherever the disease reappears.


The reason for the reappearance of mumps among those vaccinated in childhood is attributed to waning immunity rather than the emergence of mumps virus antigenic variants in the population, although genetically distinct mumps virus strains are present globally. This interpretation is supported by the observation that those experiencing mumps virus infection naturally prior to 1965 retain lifelong immunity.





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The content and opinions are neither pre-screened nor endorsed by the SASTM. The content should neither be interpreted nor quoted as inherently accurate or authoritative.

The information provided in SASTM Newsflashes is collected from various news sources, health agencies and government agencies. Although the information is believed to be accurate, any express or implied warranty as to its suitability for any purpose is categorically disclaimed. In particular, this information should not be construed to serve as medical advice for any individual. The health information provided is general in nature, and may not be appropriate for all persons. Medical advice may vary because of individual differences in such factors as health risks, current medical conditions and treatment, allergies, pregnancy and breast feeding, etc. In addition, global health risks are constantly evolving and changing. International travelers should consult a qualified physician for medical advice prior to departure.

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