Number of mumps cases swelling in Galway, warns HSE as figures double

An upsurge in the number of mumps cases, mainly among men in the 17 to 24 year age group, has been reported in Galway.

Twenty-two cases have been recorded since September with the recent spike in the incidence of the virus coinciding with the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year.

The rise in the number of cases locally mirrors the situation nationally. There has been a doubling of mumps notifications in Ireland in 2014 with 414 cases reported so far. This compares with a total of 223 cases last year. Most people affected are young adults under 35 years.

The majority of cases are in the Dublin region (197 ) but all regions are affected. There were 62 cases recorded in the west and 98 in the south of the country to date, according to the HSE’s Health Protection and Surveillance Centre.

A total of 17 outbreaks have been reported during the year, six of which are linked to universities/colleges, three to schools, six are family outbreaks and two were in the general community. Sporadic cases of the illness - whose symptoms include fever, headache and painful, swollen salivary glands - without specific links to any particular setting, are also being reported.

In a notification to students NUI Galway’s student health unit highlighted the increase in mumps cases and provided information on the telltale signs and vaccination. Students with concerns or who want to get immunised are advised to contact the centre at (091 ) 493758.

The HSE’s national immunisation office reveals that many third level colleges have major mumps outbreaks this year. Students between 17 and 24 years have been most affected because many of them have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine. This is necessary to afford protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

People who are unsure if they had sufficient doses should be vaccinated. An extra dose will not do anyone any harm, according to the immunisation office. The vaccination is free but people may have to pay an administration fee. Studies estimate that 88 per cent of people are protected against mumps after two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Older students usually do not need the vaccine as they probably were infected with mumps as young children before the vaccine was available.

The first MMR dose is given by GPs at 12 months old. The second is given at age four to five years by HSE vaccination teams in schools.

People who should not get the MMR vaccine include those who have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis ) to a previous MMR vaccine or any part of it and women who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant. You should delay getting the vaccine if you have a high fever (greater than 38°C ), a serious illness affecting your immune system or you are taking medication that affects your immune system.

The HSE explains that mumps is spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with saliva. Those affected may be ill for up to two weeks. Generally complications are mild but mumps can cause meningitis, deafness, inflammation of the pancreas, ovaries or testicles.

The last large national mumps outbreak occurred in 2009 when more than 3,500 mumps cases were reported.

Mumps activity

in 2014

There has been a doubling of mumps notifications in Ireland in 2014 with 414 cases reported this year (to date ) compared to a total of 223 mumps cases in 2013. The most recent upsurge coincided with the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic term.

Most cases are male (60% ). The highest number and age specific incidence rate is in the 17-20 year age group, with 146 cases reported (ASIR 66/100,000 population ). This compares to 103 cases in the < 17 year age group (ASIR 9/100,000 ).

For most individuals diagnosed with mumps they were diagnosed and treated in the community. The most commonly reported symptoms were fever, and inflammation and swelling of the salivary glands, usually the parotid gland. Twenty-two people were hospitalised as a result of mumps infection.

Fifty-percent of the mumps cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing with the remainder diagnosed on clinical findings.

Among all cases notified, a third report having received two doses of MMR vaccine, 19% reported one dose, and 13% reported no vaccination. For another 33% of cases no information was provided on vaccination status. Less than 1% of cases reported three doses of MMR vaccine.

The last large national mumps outbreak occurred in 2009, when more than 3,500 mumps cases were reported. Control measures at that time focussed on increasing MMR vaccination among students who had not received two doses of the mumps containing vaccine.

The best prevention against mumps is two doses of MMR vaccination. MMR vaccine is free for all children. The first dose is normally given at 12 months of age and the second dose at school entry (4-5 years of age ). HSE has undertaken an MMR catch-up campaign for school students since 2009. Some teenagers/young adults who did not obtain two doses of MMR vaccine are encouraged to obtain the vaccine from their GP or student health services.

Further information on mumps and MMR vaccine is available from HPSC and the HSE National Immunisation Office.

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