Mumps outbreak highlights importance of vaccination

Mumps outbreak highlights importance of vaccination

Friday 20 November 2015


An outbreak of mumps at one of Perth’s most prestigious private schools highlights the importance of parents protecting their children through vaccination, Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Michael Gannon said today.


“Any outbreak of mumps is worrying. In closed environments like prisons, nursing homes and boarding schools, it is even more concerning as infection spreads so quickly,” Dr Gannon said.


Dr Gannon said that he had been contacted by GPs and parents concerned about the outbreak.


Mumps is very contagious. It starts with flu-like symptoms followed by facial swelling, swelling along the jaw and around the ear.


Serious and potentially lethal complications can include inflammation of the brain. Also of great concern is inflammation of the testicles and the association with male infertility years down the track.


“We are seeing too many outbreaks of mumps and other infectious diseases that we should have seen the back of,” he said.


“But outbreaks such as this show how easily these diseases again rear their head. Mumps is readily preventable with paired doses of the MMR vaccine. We need to have very high rates of vaccination for herd immunity to cover those who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to be vaccinated.”


People with mumps are advised to avoid work, school and social gatherings for five days after swelling starts. The virus is highly contagious and there is no antibiotic treatment.


This latest outbreak has already spread from the boarding house to students at the main school and there are a number of additional cases still waiting for tests to be returned.


Dr Gannon said the school had taken the appropriate steps by informing parents of the outbreak and working closely with the Health Department.


“I would like to congratulate the school involved for the action it has taken to inform parents and to offer booster shots to staff and students. I would urge anyone who has contact with the school community to take advantage of this offer.”


Dr Gannon said it was vital that the community did not take its eyes off the ultimate aim of vaccination rates in excess of 95 per cent.


“After years of falling vaccination rates in WA, we have recently seen a slight increase. While this is good news, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. Everyone has to play their part in making our community safe.”

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