A mumps outbreak in Auckland has hit 300 cases this year, more than the last 16 years combined, due in part to a large cohort of unvaccinated young people.
The Auckland Public Regional Health Service released updated numbers on the outbreak on Tuesday, saying a ‘lost generation’ of young people faced a triple threat of potentially serious disease as a result of low immunisation rates.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Josephine Herman said the implications for young adults were “deeply concerning, given the risk of non-immune pregnant women catching rubella. This can result in miscarriage or still birth and babies developing severe birth defects”.
Mumps also posed a risk of miscarriage for women in the first trimester, and in rare cases can cause male sterility.
University of Auckland’s Dr Helen Petousis-Harris told Newstalk ZB there were several factors contributing to the outbreak: historically low coverage, no national register to track immunisations until recently, plus some Pacific Island nations don’t have a mumps vaccine, so people arriving in New Zealand from those locations may not realise they were not immunised against mumps.
In 2001, the timing of the second measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was shifted from 11 years to 4 years, which means a cohort of young adults – now aged in their 20s – may have missed the second dose. As the National Immunisation Registry only recorded data for children born from 2005 onward, the so-called ‘lost generation’ was not captured there either.
“One of the challenges in this age group, they are too old to have their immunisation records on our national register,” Dr Petousis-Harris said, “so it might be a matter of maybe going and seeing and asking your general practice. And if you can’t figure it out, there’s no harm in having an extra dose.”
Anyone who has not received two doses of the MMR vaccine can access it for free.
The outbreak has been covered by local media, including:
Newstalk ZB: Auckland mumps outbreak: 300 cases in eight months
Newshub: Auckland faces significant mumps outbreak
Radio NZ: Mumps outbreak: 300 cases in Auckland
Stuff.co.nz: The worst mumps outbreak in 23 years is spreading in Auckland communities
NZ Herald: More mumps reported in eight months than in past 16 years
NZ Doctor: ‘Vaccinate any chance you get’ in first mumps outbreak of century
Sciblogs: Mumps outbreak – add fire and watch it burn