Hundreds of students have been struck down by a severe outbreak of mumps that is spreading across British universities.
Public Health England figures show that more than 7,200 suspected mumps cases have been reported in the UK since July, almost triple the same period last year.
Health officials said students were driving the surge and urged any who missed out on the MMR jab to get vaccinated.
There has been a fall in uptake of all ten routine childhood jabs (file image). More than 15,000 mumps cases have been reported so far compared with just over 6,000 at this time in 2018, according to Dr Doug Brown, of the British Society for Immunology
In recent weeks, outbreaks of the highly infectious disease have been reported at universities including Edinburgh, Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol.
The surge in cases is linked to a dip in uptake of the MMR vaccine two decades ago. The current generation of students were born at the height a mass health scare triggered in 1998, when now-disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield made a link between the vaccine and autism.
More than 7,200 mumps cases have been reported in UK since July, says Public Health England figures (file image). Simon Stevens of NHS England said misinformation and falling uptake of vaccines are a ‘public health time bomb’
Simon Stevens, of NHS England, said: ‘Mumps is infectious and causes serious health complications, and the stark rise in cases is another reminder that opting out of protective jabs like MMR is dangerous and can make preventable diseases fatal.
‘Dangerous misinformation about vaccines and falling uptake are a public health time bomb.’
The Daily Mail is running a major campaign to boost vaccine rates amid falling uptake of all ten routine childhood jabs.
Dr Doug Brown, of the British Society for Immunology, said: ‘The UK has seen a worrying increase in people diagnosed with mumps this year, with over 15,000 cases reported so far compared with just over 6,000 at this time in 2018.
‘We can all be protected from mumps by having the MMR vaccine. To curb this continuing spread of mumps we need 95 per cent of people to be vaccinated – a target that the UK has not reached for some years – and we are now seeing the effects of this failure.’
The Daily Mail has been campaigning for improvements in vaccination levels