A small cluster of mumps cases in Oamaru appears to be contained and there have not been any new cases reported since August, according to Public Health South.
There have been seven confirmed cases of mumps in Oamaru. It is thought that these cases are linked to the mumps outbreak in Auckland and the Pacific Islands, and not linked directly to the mumps cases reported in Dunedin last month.
“The good news is that the outbreak in Oamaru does not appear to have spread far through the community and appears to be contained at this time,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr Naomi Gough. “As is often the case with mumps, the symptoms were mild and many patients may not feel unwell enough to see their doctor. The cluster was identified and traced retrospectively after one patient sought medical attention.”
Mumps is a viral illness that is spread the same way as colds and flu – through infected saliva, and respiratory secretions. Symptoms of mumps include mild fever, aches and pains, and swelling around the face.
As with the mumps outbreak in Dunedin last month, Public Health South has moved to a Manage It approach where the priority is on encouraging vaccination of people at risk prior to them becoming exposed.
Schools, kindergartens and early childhood centres in Oamaru are notifying parents of the outbreak and encouraging them to check their child’s immunisation records to ensure their vaccinations - and specifically the MMR vaccine - are up-to-date.
For those in doubt as to whether they have had their MMR immunisations, Dr Gough suggests people err on the side of caution and get vaccinated, as there is no harm in an extra dose. The MMR is free for anyone who needs it.
“The MMR vaccine is still the best defence against mumps and we are encouraging vaccination of at-risk groups to prevent them from getting infected prior to being exposed,” says Dr Gough, adding primary care providers have the MMR vaccine available.
“Those most at risk are people from countries where the MMR vaccine is not available, including some Pacific Islands nations such as Tonga and Fiji, and people whose vaccination schedule is not up-to-date,” she says.
Oamaru GP practices are working through their patient lists and recalling those not up-to-date. People from pacific communities are being encouraged to ensure they are enrolled with a GP practice and get immunised if they are not already
“While there have not been any new cases reported this month in Oamaru, we can expect to see more cases present that as long as there is an outbreak in Auckland and the Pacific Islands,” Dr Gough explained. “We live in a global communities these days and people travel more than ever.”
She said that for most people who contract mumps, it is usually a mild but unpleasant illness and rarely are there complications.
“While mumps is contagious, you don’t get it walking past someone on the street with mumps, but if you are not immune and you spend time in close proximity with someone who is sick and infectious, you are at risk,” Dr Gough says.
The mumps outbreak in Dunedin is now slowing and the spread within the community is limited. However, new cases are still being notified. These cases are often linked with travel to a mumps affected area. The MMR vaccine was introduced in 1990 but the current schedule of immunisations at 18-months and four years was not introduced until 2003. Many people born before 1981 are likely immune because they will have contracted it at some time and those born after 1989 with up-to-date immunisations are also likely to be protected.
The last mumps outbreak in New Zealand was in 1994. Since MMR was introduced, the disease had almost disappeared from local communities. The Otago and Southland districts have not had mumps circulating in the community for many years with only occasional cases introduced following travel.
Mumps Fact Sheet
- Mumps is a viral illness, spread the same as colds and flus – through infected saliva
- Mumps has an incubation period of 12–25 days. Infected persons are infectious from two days before swelling appears until five days after.
- If you’ve been in contact with someone who has had mumps, please see your GP or student health provider.
- Pain in the jaw
- Swelling of the glands around the face, and sometimes testicles and ovaries.
- Anyone born in New Zealand prior to 1981 is expected to be immune.
- Anyone born in New Zealand since 1989 will have been offered two MMR vaccines during childhood, either before school, or a school catch up. If you have had all your immunisations as a child, you are probably protected. If you have had mumps before, you will also be protected. Check with your parents, whānau or general practice if you are unsure.
- Anyone born between 1981 and 1990 who is not sure if they have had two MMR or mumps vaccinations are advised to contact their general practice to discuss getting catch up MMR vaccines.
- People who grew up in countries overseas where routine childhood vaccinations do not include MMR may be at particular risk and are advised to contact their general practice to get catch up MMR.