Warning on mumps outbreak
An outbreak of mumps in
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
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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