Upsurge in mumps cases in 2008


Since the beginning of 2008 there has been an increase in mumps cases notified to the HPSC, with nearly a thousand cases reported by mid-November. Most cases are teenagers and young adults (15-24 year age group) with smaller numbers occurring among younger and older individuals.

Many outbreaks are reported in colleges, universities as well as in the general community.

Why is this increase occurring?
From the data available to HPSC it appears that the majority of mumps cases are either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated (only received one dose of MMR). Full vaccination requires two doses of MMR.

Why are we not seeing as many cases in the very young and older individuals?
The lower incidence of disease in younger children is most likely related to better immunity among this group because these children are more likely to have received two doses of MMR in recent years. Older individuals are more likely to have immunity as a result of infection when they were children.

How effective is the vaccine?
Outbreak based studies have demonstrated that the two doses of the MMR vaccine will protect between 80%-95% of individuals against mumps. During outbreak periods some cases are expected among vaccinated individuals because not all individuals will have protective immunity. Without vaccination more cases would occur.

What can be done to prevent mumps?
The best way to prevent mumps for individuals who are not immune is by getting the MMR vaccine.

In the childhood immunization schedule MMR is already routinely given to children after 12 months of age and at 4-5 years of age.

Children who are older than 5 years of age and have not already been vaccinated through the school programme or by their GP and young adults (particularly those < 25 years of age) who have not received 2 doses of MMR should be vaccinated by contacting their GP.

Individuals who don’t know how many doses of MMR they have received
Many individuals do not know what vaccines they had in childhood - in which case it is recommended that young adults and teenagers who have missed out on the school programme should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine to protect against the disease.

Where can people get the MMR vaccine?
GPs are provided with the MMR vaccine from the National Immunisation Office. Payments for vaccine administration (but not the vaccine) may apply for some individuals.

Click here for more information on MMR - Protection against measles, mumps & rubella.