15th September 2005
For immediate release
MUMPS PLEA TO GLASGOW STUDENTS
NHS Greater Glasgow's Public Health Protection Unit is warning students beginning the new academic year next week to make sure they're properly protected against mumps.
Figures for the first half of 2005 suggest that, although the number of cases in the Greater Glasgow area is down slightly compared to last year, it remains worryingly high. Across Scotland as a whole, diagnoses for the first half of 2005 are running at 1649 – compared to 1891 for all of 2004.
As a result, public health chiefs in the city are advising all students beginning or returning to university this week to register with a GP and to get the MMR.
NHS Greater Glasgow's Consultant in Public Health Medicine Dr Syed Ahmed is stressing the importance of having a GP: "Cases of mumps are at such disturbingly high levels here in Glasgow just now, and students are the most at risk. It's vital you get the MMR and so, for this and for other reasons, you must register with a local GP".
In 2003, 13 cases of mumps were identified within Greater Glasgow. By 2004 this had gone up to 685, and for the first six months of this year the total stands at 293. Now, public health officials in the city are urging anyone aged between 17 and 24 who has not yet received two doses of the MMR vaccine to visit their GP.
And that especially applies to students.
While the illness is affecting all age groups, Dr Ahmed says young people are the most vulnerable: "Until the MMR was introduced in 1988, there was no vaccination programme against mumps. But since then, we've recommended that babies get the MMR and so roughly around 90% of the population under the age of seventeen have been immunised against mumps.
"People in their mid-twenties and older will usually have become naturally immune to mumps through exposure to it in the general population during the years when it was a more common illness.
"But these people who're between 17 and around 24 are at most risk."
The living conditions for students at college and university can also often make for easier transmission of mumps. According to Dr Ahmed, the close proximity of students living in halls of residence can facilitate the spread of the disease: "I remember from my own University days that students are often living cheek by jowl, and this can mean that once one person catches an illness, it can spread pretty easily. We're seeing this happen with mumps among young people right now."
Symptoms of the illness include painful swollen glands, fever, headache and stomach pains. Anyone suffering these symptoms is advised to contact their GP as soon as possible.
For those who have not yet been immunised, Dr Ahmed's advice is the same: "Mumps is usually a mild to moderate illness but it can be unpleasant and in rare occasions it can lead to serious complications. I would advise anyone who hasn't had two doses of MMR to go immediately to their GP and get immunised".
Notes to Editors:
1 Mumps is generally a mild to moderate illness, but on rare occasions serious complications can occur. These can include painful, swollen testicles; meningitis or encephalitis, pancreatitis, deafness and, when the disease affects pregnant women, it can result in miscarriage.
2 In 2003, there were 47 confirmed cases of mumps in Scotland. In 2004, there were 1891. In the first six months of 2005, that figure stands at 1649, 86% of them aged between 14 and 26. Peak incidence is between the ages of 17 and 22.
3 The MMR vaccine is available on request from GPs throughout Glasgow.
For further information contact Annalena Winslow at NHS Greater Glasgow Communications on 0141 201 4447.