Biggest mumps outbreak in a decade continues with 103 new cases last week

Worst affected part of the State is the greater Dublin area, which accounted for 1,126 cases so far this year

The biggest mumps outbreak in a decade shows no sign of abating, with 103 new cases reported last week.

So far this year, 2,458 cases of mumps have been reported, compared to 563 notified in all of 2018, according to the latest figures.

With the current outbreak mostly affecting teenagers and young adults, scores of schools and colleges have been affected. The Health Service Executive advises those diagnosed with the disease to stay at home for at least five days after their salivary glands swell, in order to prevent the infection spreading.

The worst affected part of the State is the greater Dublin area, which accounted for 1,126 of the cases so far this year, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. In contrast, just 84 cases have been recorded in the Southern Health Board area.


Men are slightly more affected than women, and 869 cases have been recorded among 15-19 year-olds alone.

Public health officials have blamed the current outbreak on a dip in the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccination rates 20 years ago. This resulted from publicity surrounding the since discredited claims by Dr Andrew Wakefield linking the vaccine to a rise in autism cases.

Doctors say the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease and its complications, though it is estimated to be only 88 per cent effective in preventing mumps and effectiveness wanes over time.

Mumps is an acute viral infection spread from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness and swollen and tender salivary glands. Mumps often gives the appearance of swollen cheeks or jaw.

Since 1988 when MMR was first introduced, the largest outbreak of mumps was reported in 2009 when more than 3,600 cases were notified.

Fortunately, there is no sign of a measles outbreak this year. Some 75 cases have been reported in the first 11 months 2019, 40 of them in the greater Dublin area.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times