UK struck by mumps epidemic

England and Wales are in the grip of a mumps epidemic affecting mostly adolescents and young adults.

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By  Stuart Qualtrough Published  May 18, 2005

England and Wales are in the grip of a mumps epidemic affecting mostly adolescents and young adults. More than 5000 cases have been reported in the first 5 months of 2005. Last year there were 16,436 cases — four times as many as the previous year. "The current mumps outbreak has been predominantly in older teenagers and young adults, who have not been offered two doses of MMR," said Emma Savage of the Health Protection Agency. Cases of mumps fell after MMR was introduced in 1988, and the largest outbreak is in people born between 1983 and 1986, who are too old to have received the MMR vaccine. "This confirms the effectiveness of the current vaccination policy," Savage and her colleagues said in a report in the British Medical Journal. In a separate study in the journal, Ravindra Gupta and colleagues at St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London warned that younger children could also be at risk because of a fall in MMR vaccinations among 2-year-olds. Uptake of the MMR dropped from around 92% in 1995 to about 80% in 2003-2004 after parents began boycotting it because they believed it was linked to autism or bowel disease. Fears about the safety of the MMR vaccine have persisted, despite reviews of the medical evidence that found no link with autism or bowel disease. The British government and the World Health Organisation has also said the vaccination is safe. "This epidemic underlines the importance of ensuring that all children and young adults have received two doses of MMR," Gupta added. Most cases of mumps are mild, but when complications occur they can be serious. Britain's National Health Service (NHS) says about one in four adolescent boys or adult men with mumps develop an inflammation of one or both testes, which can be very painful. If it affects both testes, there is some evidence to suggest it may lead to sterility

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