Laboratory-confirmed cases of mumps have increased by more than 800 per cent in the past five years. Provisional figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service show a total of 753 confirmed cases in England and Wales for 2001 – 659 more than 1996.
The statistics also show that mumps have been virtually eliminated among toddlers, with the majority of cases occurring within the 10-14 age group.
Mumps is an infectious disease that causes swelling of the saliva-producing glands near the ears. Serious complications are more common in adults than children. In rare cases it can cause viral meningitis or sterility in men. The most common symptom is painful swelling in front of and below the ears. Mumps can also cause orchitis – swelling of the testicles – in boys past puberty.
"These figures just go to show that the MMR vaccine doesn't necessarily protect you – it just prevents you from having mumps and dealing with it at the right time," said Magda Taylor of The Informed Parent, a group which educates parents facing vaccination decisions.
Mumps is an acute viral disease which is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. People who have mumps may spread the infection to others, even when they do not have any symptoms or when their illness is mild. Symptoms usually appear between 12 and 25 days after a person has been exposed to the virus.
Rare complications include infection of the brain (encephalitis) and inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), arthritis, kidney and pancreas problems, deafness, and inflammation of the thyroid gland and breasts. Women may be at risk of spontaneous abortions if they get mumps while pregnant
* A special service to mark Autism Awareness Year will be held at St Paul's Cathedral in London this afternoon. Prayers will be said for the 520,000 autism sufferers in the United Kingdom and their families.