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Number of mumps cases reaches decade high in England, PHE warns

The number of cases of mumps in the UK has reached its highest in a decade, provisional figures from Public Health England have shown.

Data show that the number of cases recorded in 2019 was nearly five times higher than in 2018, which PHE says has been driven by outbreaks in universities and colleges.

There were 5,042 lab-confirmed cases in 2019, according to PHE, compared with just 1,066 in 2018. This year's number of cases is the highest seen in England since 2009.

PHE said that many of the cases in 2019 could be attributed to the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who may have missed their MMR vaccine following the autism controversy.

The health authority also said that cases looked set to rise in 2020, with 546 cases confirmed in January 2020, compared with 191 in the same month last year.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The rise in mumps cases is alarming and yet another example of the long-term damage caused by anti-vax information.

‘Our vaccine strategy will soon be published outlining how we will increase uptake, limit the spread of vaccine misinformation and ensure every child receives two doses of their MMR vaccination. Anyone who is unsure whether they are fully covered should contact their GP.’

PHE and NHS England recently launched a catch-up programme for children aged 10 and 11 who missed the MMR vaccine in childhood.

Data published by UNICEF in 2019 named the UK as the second worst nation in Europe for vaccinating children against measles as research suggested that a fear of side effects was one of the main drivers behind lack of vaccination uptake.

Meanwhile, the new GP contract has stated that vaccinations and immunisations will become an essential contractual service this year, with MMR vaccinations being funded by a fixed £10.06 item of service payment.