Parents in Auckland are being urged to get their children immunised against mumps as the contagious disease continues to spread across the region.
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (APRHS) has described it as an unrelenting outbreak of the disease.
ARPHS Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters says, “This year we have had over 130 mumps cases in Auckland compared with 35 last year. Unfortunately 80% of the current cases were not fully vaccinated. It is disappointing because mumps is a preventable and serious disease.”
Warnings were initially issued by the APRHS in early April this year after 39 cases were reported mainly in West Auckland.
Dr Peters says, “Most recover from this disease. However in the last six months a number of people have suffered from severe complications caused by mumps.”
Concern has risen further as some adolescent males are experiencing pain and swelling in their genitals and some females have experienced ovarian inflammation.
Another person is reported to have developed meningitis as a result of contracting mumps.
Health experts say pregnant women who catch the disease and are not immunised can be at risk of miscarriage and in rare cases mumps has been known to cause hearing loss.
“I urge parents to check with their doctor to ensure their families’ measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations are up to date. The vaccination is free,” says Dr Peters.
Almost 70% of the cases are occurring in children and teens aged 10-19 years. Mumps can spread quickly among those who are not immune, particularly in schools. An individual with mumps at a secondary school could cause an outbreak, because immunity in that age group is well below the national average.
“If parents do not organise vaccination quickly, their child may be excluded from school. We are in the midst of an outbreak and already many students are scrambling to catch up on school work after missing school for several weeks,” says Dr Peters.
ARPHS is working with primary care, early childhood, schools and tertiary institutions to provide support and resources to minimise the spread of mumps.
The ARPH S told Te Kaea this morning the number of people affected with the disease has now climbed to more than 140.
Talisa Kupenga will have more on this story tonight on Te Kāea.