Pacific community hit hardest by Auckland mumps outbreak
AUCKLAND, New Zealand – September 12: 4.05pm (STUFF NZ): Auckland’s largest mumps outbreak in years is affecting the Pacific Island community worst.
More than 300 people have been affected by the virus since January, which is the worst in 16 years, and more than 60 per cent of the cases are Pacific people.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service medical officer Dr Josephine Herman says people who grew up in the Pacific Islands may not be immunised for mumps.
Countries like Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati don’t include the mumps vaccine with the measles and rubella vaccines like New Zealand does, she says.
“We need these families to know they have to be immunised here for mumps, especially before they travel to the Islands or when they have visitors from the Islands,” Herman says.
The mumps outbreak began in west Auckland, but almost half the new cases are in the Counties Manukau District Health Board region.
Of the 315 people affected by the virus, 43 per cent are in Waitemata, 37 per cent are in Counties Manukau, and 20 per cent are in the Auckland DHB region.
Herman says Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Māngere East are the most affected areas in south Auckland, but it is widespread.
Mumps is an infectious viral illness which can cause fever, soreness, swelling in the face and general malaise.
Most people recover after a few weeks, but mumps can have serious complications.
The disease can cause inflammation of tissue surrounding the brain (meningitis), inflamed testicles or ovaries, and permanent deafness. It can lead to infertility.
The primary sign of mumps is swollen salivary glands that cause the cheeks to puff out – the term “mumps” is an old expression for lumps or bumps within the cheeks.
Other symptoms include headache, muscle aches and pain while chewing or swallowing.
Herman attributes the mumps outbreak to low immunisation rates, and says there’s a generation of young people who are also at risk of measles and rubella.
A large number of 10 to 29 year olds aren’t immunised, due to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine controversy in the late 1990s.
Herman says some adults may also have missed out on the second dose of the MMR vaccine as children, when the timing of the dose was moved from 11 years to four in 2001.
Any person who has not received two doses of the MMR vaccine could access this for free and families are being urged to check vaccination records if unsure
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