Now is the time for all students and pupils to make sure they are as fit as they can. This advice also applies to young adults who are not in school, college or university. If you haven’t had 2 doses of MMR, ask for an appointment with your GP for MMR as soon as possible.
Anyone who had their first dose of MMR during the recent measles outbreak needs to remember to have their second now, if they haven’t had it already. One dose of the vaccine gives some protection but two doses is more effective and enough to last a lifetime.
It’s not just the measles component we are worried about as rubella and mumps are also being identified in the UK this year.
Rubella causes a transient red rash, swollen lymph glands typically behind the ears and at the back of the head and adults may have arthritis. Around half of all children who become infected have no symptoms.
The infection is serious in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, causing spontaneous abortion and in surviving babies a range of conditions such as mental handicap, cataract, deafness, heart abnormalities and growth retardation.
There have been no confirmed cases recorded in Wales since 2005 but it continues to be identified in older children and young adults every year in England.
Mumps continues to circulate in Wales. In the first three months of 2013 there were 76 confirmed cases compared to 88 for the whole of 2012. The peak age group was 15 to 29, particularly 20 – 24 year olds.
Symptoms include headache, high fever and inflammation of the parotid glands (giving the so-called hamster face). Complications include pancreatitis, swelling of ovaries and, for 1 in 5 males post puberty, testicles. Usually only 1 testicle is affected but after recovery there may be shrinkage of the testicle and a reduced sperm count, though rarely leading to infertility.
Encephalitis requiring ITU care occurs in around 1 in a 1,000 and permanent deafness in around 1 in 20,000.
Measles, mumps and rubella are unpleasant, potentially life-changing diseases. We don’t need to put up with them. All children and young adults need to be protected with two doses of MMR.