The HSE has announced that it will offer the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to all post-Junior Cert students before the summer break in response to continued increases in cases of mumps.
So far this year, there have been almost 2,000 notifications of mumps reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, compared to just 128 for the same period in 2008.
The vaccination will be offered to transition, fifth and sixth year students in secondary schools free of charge by the Department of Health and the HSE. According to the HSE, the outbreak is happening in 15 to 24-year-olds because many older teenagers have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine.
“Outbreaks of mumps have been reported in secondary schools, colleges, universities, and sports clubs – that’s why we’ve decided to offer this group a dose of MMR. It will protect them now, and when they leave school,” said Dr Brenda Corcoran from the HSE’s National Immunisation Office.
Mumps is an acute viral illness that causes fever, headache and painful, swollen salivary glands. It is contagious and requires isolation or quarantine, and can cause people to miss up to two weeks from school, work, studying, taking exams or socialising.
Generally, complications are mild but mumps can cause meningitis, deafness or inflammation of the pancreas or testicles. The MMR vaccine provides protection from mumps, as well as measles and rubella.
Teams from the HSE Public Health Departments and Local Health Offices will contact second level schools across the country this week to schedule immunisation clinics in schools in the coming weeks, with bigger schools being prioritised initially due to the greater risk they pose.
According to the HSE, recent studies estimate that one dose of MMR is about 80% effective against mumps, and two doses of MMR are about 88 to 95% effective in preventing mumps. If a young person’s MMR history is not known, an extra dose of MMR will do no harm, and could offer valuable protection against mumps.
The HSE will be attending as many schools as possible in the weeks before the summer break, and any schools that are not targeted will be followed up in September. In addition, the HSE continues to advise those in 3rd level institutions to attend student health services for the MMR vaccine.
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