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March 2020

Mumps cases at 10-year peak

The number of cases of mumps in England reached its highest level in more than a decade, according to latest figures from Public Health England.

In 2019, there were more than 5,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of mumps. The steep rise has been driven by outbreaks in universities and colleges, with most cases seen in young people and adults aged 15–35 years – the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late 1990s and early 2000s who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were children. Some 25,000 students who never received the MMR vaccine started university last autumn.

Mumps is a viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine. Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases it can cause complications such as inflammation of the testicles, and in rare cases, meningitis and deafness.

The mumps outbreaks follow reports of a sharp increase in cases of measles in the last two years, from 283 in 2017, to 989 in 2018, and 810 in 2019. In September 2019, the UK lost its measles-free status. It was also estimated that one-in-seven 5-year-olds were not fully immunised against MMR, and one-in-19 in the same age group had yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine.