Preventable Disease Outbreak: Mumps in Europe

Despite the availability of the MMR vaccine, mumps has made a resurgence in many parts of Europe. So far in 2009, Ireland has seen over 3000 cases of mumps (more than 2755 cases than the same period in 2008). In England and Wales, the number of cases doubled to nearly 1700 in the 1st part of 2009 as compared with 2008. According to the British Medical Association (BMA) only one in four children under five in the UK has been given the recommended two doses of MMR, which are needed to give full protection against illness. It is estimated that one dose of MMR is ~80% effective at preventing mumps as compared to an effectiveness of ~88%-95% with 2 doses of the vaccine. A majority of the outbreaks that have been occurring throughout Europe have been occurring in high schools, universities, and sports clubs – in groups of older teenagers who never received the 2nd dose of the MMR vaccine. The 2nd dose of the vaccine can be given at any age, and can offer valuable protection against mumps. In fact, the BMA recently advised that the MMR vaccine be made compulsory for all school children before admission is allowed – this issue is currently being debated in the UK.  Image courtesy 

Mumps is an acute viral illness with symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, and swelling of salivary glands. Severe complications can occur, and include encephalitis, meningitis, inflammation of the testicles, inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts, spontaneous abortion, and permanent deafness. Since the mumps virus replicates in the upper respiratory tract, it is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva. There is no treatment available for mumps, however a vaccine exists (contained as part of the MMR – measles, mumps, rubella – vaccine), which can prevent the disease. It is recommended that children get two doses of the vaccine. (More information about MMR vaccination can be found at 

In addition, children and adults with mumps typically miss significant amounts of school or work, as the illness requires isolation and exclusion from school or the workplace for up to 9 days after the onset of symptoms.

Regardless of whether or not MMR vaccination becomes mandatory for school admission, without an increase in vaccination an outbreak of measles is a looming possibility on top of the already rising numbers of mumps cases.

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