Risk of mumps outbreaks among teenagers as they return to college
Parents have been warned about the ongoing threat of mumps outbreaks, particularly among teenagers and young adults, as they return to school and college.
Health authorities have reported 213 cases of mumps to date this year - more than a quarter in the 15-24 age group.
The mumps virus can be spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes.
It causes acute viral illness with fever, headache and painful swollen glands. Symptoms are usually mild but can cause discomfort and include swollen cheeks or jaw, fever, headache and a general feeling of being unwell.
In some cases it can have more serious consequences and can cause inflammation of the testicles, ovaries or pancreas while leading to viral meningitis or deafness.
Dr Alf Nicholson, paediatrician at Temple Street children's hospital in Dublin, said thousands of children born between 2000 to 2003 in Ireland were not given the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
This was because the vaccine was the subject of unfounded scares about its safety.
"The uptake of the vaccine fell to under 50pc around that time. There were around 65,000 births in Ireland.
"They are now in their teens and if they have not received the vaccine since are vulnerable to infection," he said.
Dr Jack Lambert, infectious disease specialist at the Mater Hospital, also pointed to the risks of infection among children and young people who are not vaccinated.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said the 213 cases of mumps to date this year compares with 379 during the same period last year. However, the continuing high numbers shows the spread of infection is still not under full control.
There were 12 cases of mumps this year in the under fives and 43 among the 5-14 age group.
Cases were also recorded among people in their thirties, forties, fifties and also among the over 65s.
The HSE spokeswoman said the MMR vaccine is recommended to prevent mumps.
"Two doses should be given, the first at 12 months and the second at age four to five," she said.
"Any older individuals who have missed their two doses are recommended to obtain the vaccine from their GP or student health service, in the case of university or college students."
The vaccine can dramatically reduce the risk although some people with mumps had received all the necessary course of jabs.
Dr Nicholson said the children's hospital is continuing to see children with forms of chickenpox.
He called on the HSE to make the vaccine to protect against chickenpox part of the routine vaccination schedule.
There have been at least 86 patients hospitalised with chickenpox so far this year.
It is usually mild and clears up in a week or so.
But it can be dangerous for some people, such as pregnant women, newborns and people with a weakened immune system.
Chickenpox is caused by a virus that spreads very easily to people who haven't had it before.
If someone is infected they will usually become immune for life.
The infection is spread in the fluid found in chickenpox blisters and the droplets in the coughs or sneezes of someone with the infection.
It is possible to catch chickenpox from contaminated surfaces or objects such as toys or bedding. It can also be passed on by touching chickenpox blisters or the shingles rash.
How to spot the symptoms of mumps
Mild abdominal pain.
Loss of appetite.
A high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F)
The symptoms usually develop 14 to 25 days after becoming infected with the mumps virus.
The average incubation period is around 17 days.
Swelling of the parotid glands is the most common symptom of mumps.
The parotid glands are a pair of glands responsible for producing saliva.
They are located in either side of the face, just below your ears.
If infected stay away from school, college or work until five days after you first developed symptoms.
Wash hands regularly, using soap and water.
Always use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and throw the tissue in a bin immediately afterwards
If the symptoms do not improve after seven days, or suddenly worsen, contact a GP for advice on what the next step should be.