PUBLIC health bosses are urging anyone under the age of 40 to make sure they are fully immunised following an alarming increase in the number of cases of mumps in the island.
In 2008, there were 18 cases of mumps in the island, 10 the following year, 13 the year later and seven in 2011. But so far this year there have been 134 cases, although not all these have been confirmed.
Director of public health Dr Parameswaran Kishore said there had been five cases of mumps at one local football club alone.
He said the majority of cases were among people aged between 20 and 35.
Dr Kishore explained that those over the age of 40 would have been exposed to mumps naturally and had got lifelong immunity to the virus while those aged 15 and below will have received the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine which offers 95 per cent protection.
‘Between those two ages are people who are too young to be immune naturally and too young to have received the vaccine,’ he said.
He said it was important that people get two doses of the MMR vaccine as immunity could wane over time - but some people don’t know what injections they’ve had or whether they’ve received the second booster jab.
Dr Kishore said: ‘I would like to remind everyone under 40 if they’ve not had two doses they should make an appointment to receive the MMR. Even if they don’t know what jabs they’ve had and can’t find their records, they can still go and get both doses.’
He also urged parents of young children to ensure they’ve had the full course of immunisation before the new school term starts.
The public health director confirmed that one island football club had seen five players contract mumps. ‘We were asked should they stop football matches and our answer is ‘absolutely not’,’ he said
Symptoms of mumps include fever, tiredness, headaches, loss of appetite, muscle aches and swollen glands.
Most people recover fully. However, it can occasionally cause complications, some of which are serious. These include inflammation of the testes, ovaries and brain and also temporary and permanent deafness.
The mumps virus is spread by droplets of saliva, usually when a person coughs, sneezes or talks.
Good personal hygiene is essential to prevent infections. Public Health officials recommend that mumps patients are isolated for days after their salivary glands begin to swell.
The MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. It should be routinely given when children are 12 months old, and a second dose should be given when they are three years and four months old.