– with the report of Jessica Casey
Schools, colleges and universities have been warned by the HSE of a “difficult to control” mumps outbreak that began just before Christmas.
132 cases of mumps were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Center last week. Most cases concern teenagers and young adults.
HSE points out that immunization intake for 24-month-old children in 2002 was 75% and that low absorption may contribute to the latest mumps outbreak.
In 2018, 573 cases of mumps were reported to the HPSC and last year the number of cases rose to 2,762.
HSE has written to all third-level institutions in the past week urging them to warn students about the risk of mumps, an acute viral infection before they return to college.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, assistant to the national director of HSE for public health and children’s health, said that the number of cases of mumps has reached “rather high” levels in the past three months.
Dr Kelleher said she wanted students to check their vaccination status before returning to education and make sure they received two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella).
The HSE also sent the same message to schools in an attempt to reduce the high number of mumps cases that continue to be reported.
The national epidemic started in 2018 and spread to all areas last year. Young people aged 15 to 24 who have not been immunized are most at risk.
Dr Kelleher said the health authority is also organizing a major social media campaign to encourage young people to protect themselves and others from the disease.
Mumps is an acute viral infection and is more likely to spread where there is close personal interaction. Occasionally it can cause complications, especially in adults.
Dr Kelleher said there is a “significant percentage” of children between the ages of 15 and 25 who are not adequately protected against mumps. Andrew Wakefield’s controversy over the MMR vaccine meant that many children did not receive the vaccine in the early part of the past decade.
“And that’s the group we are seeing now. They are often called the Wakefield cohort, “said Dr. Kelleher.