Whanganui issues mumps warning

8 November  

Whanganui now has three confirmed cases of mumps – two adults and one child who have been notified to the Public Health Centre.

Whanganui medical officer of health Patrick O’Connor says more than 900 cases of mumps have now been notified across New Zealand with most in Auckland, and most in the 15 to 24 age group.

Mumps is caused by a virus which can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or passes it on through their saliva when kissing or sharing food and drink. Antibiotics will not treat the infection or prevent spread.

Dr O’Connor says the usual early signs are fever and headache. Then after about two days salivary glands on one or both sides of the jaw may become swollen and sore. Males after puberty may experience pain and swelling of the testicles, and some females may experience pain in their ovaries.  Brain inflammation and one-sided deafness are rare complications.

“A person with mumps is considered infectious from two days before the facial swelling until five days after,” Dr O’Connor says.  “Anyone with these symptoms is asked to stay away from other people for five days after the swelling.

“If another person is infected, it will usually take 16-18 days until the person becomes unwell, but this incubation period can be 12-25 days. 

“If someone is unwell with swelling on the side of their face, they should isolate themselves and contact their doctor who can check for mumps by swabbing saliva on the inside of their cheek. If you are seeing your doctor for this reason, it helps to phone ahead as this reduces the chance of infecting someone else.”

Dr O’Connor says the best protection against mumps is the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.  Children have this vaccine at age 15 months and 4 years.  Anyone in New Zealand born since 1969 is entitled to two free doses of MMR vaccine.  Those most at risk in the present outbreak are aged 15-24 years. You can check with your doctor if you are unsure whether you have had the two doses.

If you suspect mumps call your doctor or Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116.  More information is available on http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/mumps.

For further media comment please contact WDHB communications manager Sue Campion on 021 246 8126 or 06 348 3170.