As mumps cases across the country rise to the highest levels in a decade, the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are urging people to ensure they have two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
Provisional data from Public Health England (PHE) show that there were 5,042 lab-confirmed cases of mumps in England in 2019, compared to 1,066 cases in 2018. This is the highest number of cases since 2009.
It looks likely that the increase in cases of mumps will continue this year, with 546 cases confirmed in January, compared to 191 in January 2019.
The rise in cases last year was largely as a result of outbreaks in universities and colleges, with many of cases seen in the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who did not get the MMR vaccine as children.
“This age group of people who were not vaccinated with the MMR vaccine as children are now old enough to be at college and university, and are likely to continue fueling outbreaks into 2020,” explains Tony McGinty, Consultant in Public Health, Lincolnshire County Council.
Mumps is a viral infection that, prior to the introduction of the MMR vaccine, was common in children. It is most recognizable by the painful swelling of the glands at the side of the face, giving a person with mumps a distinctive “hamster face”.
“Other symptoms include headaches, joint pain and fever, which may develop a few days before the swelling. If you suspect that you or a member of your family has mumps, contact your GP,” adds Tony.
The steep rise in cases of mumps is very concerning as for some patients mumps can lead to lifelong complications like meningitis, deafness and infertility. Vaccines are the best form of defence, and the best protection against mumps is the MMR vaccine.
“Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from mumps. It prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps and even if a vaccinated person does get mumps, they will likely have less severe illness than an unvaccinated person.
“The important message is that it’s never too late to catch up and to get vaccinated – the two doses of the MMR vaccine is the best protection against mumps and its complications, and this is why we are encouraging students and young people who may have missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past to contact their GP practice and get up to date as soon as possible,” concludes Tony.
It’s not just young people/students who need to get up to date with the MMR vaccine. If you are unsure whether you have been vaccinated contact your GP practice. For more information visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine.