AN ENTIRE generation of young adults could be at risk of catching the viral disease mumps despite being vaccinated decades ago, as waning immunity contributes to the largest outbreak in 20 years.
Health professionals are concerned the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine may no longer be working effectively, leaving a large section of the population unprotected from the mumps virus.
Last year the biggest outbreak of mumps was recorded, with 804 cases, according to the federal Department of Health’s data. There have been 89 cases already this year.
But what is worrying health professionals is that 27 per cent of all mumps cases in Australia over the past five years were suffered by adults who had already received two doses of the vaccination, one at 12 months of age and another between the ages of four and six.
“It’s a recognised issue,” Australian Medical Association Queensland spokesman and specialist in infectious diseases, Dr Paul Bartley, said.
“It’s difficult to work out what proportion of patients have waning immunity because they tend to only come to medical attention after they get sick.
“It’s been pored over by public health professionals … but nothing has been confirmed about a problem with the vaccine.”
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has acknowledged that recent outbreaks of mumps have “predominantly involved young adults, nearly all of whom had a history of vaccination during childhood, most with the recommended two-dose schedule.
“This evidence of waning immunity has led to suggestions that vaccination with a third dose during adolescence might be an effective measure to prevent outbreaks.”
Dr Bartley said a third vaccination to protect young adults with waning immunity is “under active consideration”.
The number of children not being vaccinated is becoming a cause for concern.
The Travel Doctor Deborah Mills believes young adults may be the first generation not exposed to the mumps virus therefore failing to build up a natural immunity, combined with a reduction in the vaccine’s antibodies over time.
Online Source: www.news.com.au