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Mumps cases hit 10-year high across England

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Health officials are urging people to have both parts of the MMR vaccine after cases of mumps in England reached their highest level in a decade.

Outbreaks in universities and colleges raised the number of cases of the painful viral illness to 5,042 in 2019 – four times the number in 2018.

Most were in young adults who missed out on the MMR jab.

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.

The rise in cases looks set to continue in 2020, with 546 confirmed cases in January 2020 compared to 191 during the same period in 2019.

The steep rise in cases in 2019 has been largely driven by outbreaks in universities and colleges. Many of the cases in 2019 were seen in the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were children. These cohorts are now old enough to attend college and university and are likely to continue fuelling outbreaks into 2020.

Mumps is a viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine.

It is most recognisable by the painful swelling of the glands at the side of the face, giving a person with mumps a distinctive ‘hamster face’ appearance. Other symptoms include headaches, joint pain and fever, which may develop a few days before the swelling. If you suspect that you or a family member has mumps, contact your GP.

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 a less severe illness than an unvaccinated person.

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