3 Jan 2018

Mumps outbreak continues to spread

3:23 pm on 3 January 2018

The current mumps epidemic in New Zealand has infected a total of 1070 people, with new figures showing 25 were diagnosed over the holiday period.

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Photo: AFP

Auckland health leaders in December said the outbreak had reached epidemic levels, and urged a national response to help slow the disease.

It was mostly people aged between 11 and 29 who had been affected by the disease, with low immunisations across that age group.

Auckland Regional Public Health service today released the updated figures on the outbreak, which began last year.

Clinical director Julia Peters said most people could recover, but in a few cases could develop rare complications.

Dr Peters urged parents to check with their GP to ensure their families' measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations were up to date.

She previously warned the outbreak was likely to continue for two years, but said a nationwide vaccination programme could reduce cases by a third.

A senior lecturer in vaccinology at Auckland University, Helen Petousis-Harris, said even if people had been vaccinated, they could still be at risk down the line.

"Over time, even those people who have had two doses of vaccines - their protection willprobably start to wane maybe after 10 or 15 years, so some of those people will start to become susceptible to the disease."

She said people should check when they last got their vaccinations.

About 1.3 million New Zealanders are aged 10 to 29 and if the estimate that 40 percent are not fully vaccinated is correct, that would mean 570,000 are susceptible to mumps.

Auckland has been the most affected area, but cases have also been reported in Dunedin, Whanganui, Nelon-Marlborough and Dargaville.

Mumps is caused by a virus which can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or passes it on through their saliva when kissing or sharing food and drink. Antibiotics will not treat the infection or prevent spread.

Complications can include meningitis or encephalitis, with young children most at risk.

A person with mumps is considered infectious from two days before facial swelling symptoms until five days after.

Last year several All Black contracted the disease, including Ardie Savea and Rieko Ioane.

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