News from Metro North Public Health Unit

The Metro North Public Health Unit focuses on protecting the community from communicable diseases and other illnesses, as well as promoting health and wellbeing. For further information on any of the updates below contact 07 3624 1111.

Increase in mumps cases in Queensland

Recent media articles have drawn attention to an increase in the number of mumps cases notified in Queensland.

Between January 2017 and December 2018 there were 875 cases of mumps state-wide. Only 53 cases of mumps were reported in the Metro North area over this period. These cases were typically sporadic and not related to outbreaks.

Waning immunity is thought to be the main driver behind the regional outbreaks. Decades after widespread mumps vaccination (MMR) was introduced, it appears that immunity may have waned in the absence of natural boosting from exposure to circulating wild virus. This has led to increased population susceptibility and slowly evolving community outbreaks, mostly involving older children and adults living in environments where overcrowding is common, such as school dormitories.

When outbreaks have occurred, a third dose of MMR has been recommended for those aged over eight years, born after 1965 and who live in affected communities. However, a third dose of MMR is not currently recommended for the general community living in the Metro North area, in the absence of community outbreaks. A third dose of MMR may be considered for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the above age group who temporarily reside in Metro North, but who are returning to a community where an outbreak is occurring.

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MMR: an important travel vaccine

Measles remains a global health issue, with the World Health Organization estimating seven million people were infected in 2016. In Australia, more than 100 cases were recognised and reported in 2018. Typically, people with confirmed measles have acquired the illness overseas, and this was certainly the case for each of the people known to have measles in the Brisbane area over the Christmas period.

Ensuring that patients who are heading overseas are measles immune is therefore a very important part of a pre-travel consultation.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for anyone born during or since 1966, if they do not already have either two documented doses of measles-containing vaccine; or previous laboratory-proven measles. MMR vaccine is funded for people meeting these criteria.

Two doses should be separated by a minimum of four weeks. If a complete course is not possible prior to travel, the second dose may be given on return to Australia. One vaccine prior to travel is still highly effective for preventing measles.

Promoting the facts around HPV and HPV vaccine

With the human papillomavirus (HPV) school immunisation program commencing again for the twelfth year, it is important for health professionals to know the facts about this life saving vaccine:

  • HPV is very common – nine out of ten people have HPV at some point in their lives. Most people clear the virus without ever knowing they have it. It is when it persists in the cells that some types of HPV can, usually over decades, cause cancer. Although cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer caused by HPV, it also causes penile, anal and throat cancers in men, and vaginal, vulval, anal and throat cancers in women.
  • The HPV vaccine works, protecting against around 90 per cent of cervical cancers, it also provides protection against most of the genital cancers in men caused by HPV infection. Additionally, the vaccine protects against 90 per cent of genital warts in both women and men.
  • The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the World Health Organisation has reviewed all published and emerging data about the vaccines in real world use and declared HPV vaccines safe for use.
  • The vaccine does not cause fertility issues and can help protect women from future fertility problems linked to cervical cancer.

HPV vaccine resources can be found at: