Schools, colleges and universities warned of 'difficult to control' mumps outbreak

Schools, colleges and universities warned of 'difficult to control' mumps outbreak

- with reporting by Jessica Casey

Schools, colleges and universities have been warned by the HSE about a “difficult to control” mumps outbreak which started just before Christmas.

There were 132 mumps cases reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre last week. Most of the cases are in teenagers and young adults.

The HSE points out that the immunisation uptake for children aged 24 months in 2002 was 75% and that low uptake may contribute to the latest mumps outbreak.

In 2018 there were 573 mumps cases reported to the HPSC and last year the number of cases rose to 2,762.

The HSE wrote to every third-level institution in the last week urging them to alert students about the risk of mumps, an acute viral infection before they returned to college.

HSE assistant national director of public health and child health, Dr Kevin Kelleher, said the number of mumps cases has reached “quite high” levels in the last three months.

Dr Kelleher said they wanted students to check their vaccination status before returning to education and make sure they have had two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

The HSE also sent the same message to schools in a bid to reduce the high number of mumps cases that continue to be reported.

The national outbreak started in 2018 and spread to all areas last year. Young people aged between 15 and 24 who have not been immunised are most at risk.

Dr Kelleher said the health authority is also running a big social media campaign to try encourage young people to protect themselves and others from the illness.

Mumps is an acute viral infection and it is more likely to spread where there is close personal interaction. It can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults.

Dr Kelleher said there is a “significant proportion” of 15 to 25-year-olds who are not properly protected against mumps. The Andrew Wakefield controversy over the MMR vaccine meant that a lot of children did not get the vaccine in the early part of the last decade.

“And that is the group we are seeing now. They are often called the Wakefield cohort,” said Dr Kelleher.

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