Health: Low vaccination rates fuelling mumps outbreak

Mumps is a preventable and serious disease.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is concerned not enough young Aucklanders are immunised in the face of an unrelenting mumps outbreak.

“This year we have had over 130 mumps cases in Auckland compared with 35 last year, ARPHS Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters says.

“Unfortunately 80% of the current cases were not fully vaccinated. It is disappointing because mumps is a preventable and serious disease.

“Most recover from this disease. However, in the last six months a number of people have suffered from severe complications caused by mumps.”

This year some adolescent males have been hospitalised for pain and swelling in their testicles, which in rare cases can result in infertility. Some females have experienced ovarian inflammation and another person developed meningitis.

Non immune pregnant women who catch the disease risk miscarriage in the first three months. In rare cases mumps can cause permanent hearing loss.

“I urge parents to check with their doctor to ensure their families’ measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations are up to date. The vaccination is free,” Dr Peters says.

Almost 70% of the cases are occurring in children and teens aged 10-19 years.

Mumps can spread quickly among those who are not immune, particularly in schools. An individual with mumps at a secondary school could cause an outbreak, because immunity in that age group is well below the national average.

“If parents do not organise vaccination quickly, their child may be excluded from school. We are in the midst of an outbreak and already many students are scrambling to catch up on school work after missing school for several weeks,” Dr Peters says.

ARPHS is working with primary care, early childhood, schools and tertiary institutions to provide support and resources to minimise the spread of mumps.

If you suspect mumps call your doctor or Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116.

For a mumps fact sheet click here, for a vaccination fact sheet click here.

For questions about vaccination call the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 Immune or visit www.immune.org.nz.