YOUNG adults who have long been protected from the threat of mumps may now be at risk as the protection from the vaccine begins to wear off, contributing to the biggest outbreak of its kind in 20 years.
The Courier-Mail is reporting the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine may not be working properly, leaving many vulnerable to the mumps virus.
The largest outbreak of mumps was recorded last year, with 804 cases nationally. Already there have been 89 diagnosed this year.
Of those, 27% should not have been succeptible because they had been inoculated against the disease through vaccinations given when they turned one, and another while they were under six.
Australian Medical Association Queensland specialist Dr Paul Bartley said it was a "recognised issue".
"It's difficult to work out what proportion of patients have waning immunity because they tend to only come to medical attention after they get sick," he told the Courier-Mail.
"It's been pored over by public health professionals … but nothing has been confirmed about a problem with the vaccine."
Experts are now considering a third vaccination to help boost the community's protection against mumps. Dr Bartley said the idea was "under active consideration".
WHAT IS MUMPS?
· Mumps is a viral illness that causes fever and swollen salivary glands. Serious and potentially lethal complications include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or heart muscle (myocarditis). The disease is spread from person to person and is as contagious as the flu (influenza).
· Mumps is uncommon in developed countries, including Australia, because of the widespread use of the mumps vaccine. Outbreaks still occur, so it is important to continue vaccinating children.
· weight loss
· swollen parotid gland (the salivary gland located just in front of the ear) on one or both sides of the face
· painful chewing
· painful swallowing
· Mumps is most commonly spread when someone ingests (swallows) or inhales the cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person. The virus is also carried in urine. Symptoms occur between 14 and 25 days following infection.
· One person in three who contracts mumps does not have any symptoms and doesn't realise they are sick, but they are still contagious and may infect many other people. A healthy person without symptoms who spreads an infectious disease is called a 'carrier'.
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