This post could have been titled, When Irish Eyes Ain’t Smilin’. Find out why.
Ireland, the land of luck and leprechauns, has always been a popular destination for travelers. This past year, international travelers to this lush island experienced exposure to an infection that is rarely seen in developed countries. There was an outbreak of mumps virus in Ireland that affected over 800 college students throughout the country. England and Wales also reported a spike in their infection rate compared to the prior year.
Here’s the part of the story that international travelers need to pay close attention to. Twenty-five percent of the mumps cases were never vaccinated and 29% did not receive the recommended two doses of mumps vaccine, based on available data from the patients. These students may be academic scholars, but they get a grade of F on Preventive Medicine 101.
When international travelers meet weeks before departure with their travel doctors, they discuss how to prevent various exotic diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and typhoid fever. This is also an excellent opportunity to verify that you are up to date on all of your routine immunizations, such as mumps, diphtheria and tetanus.
As your travel doctor will advise you, no vaccine offers 100% protection. In April 2009, four American university students, 2 of whom recently traveled to Ireland, are believed to have had mumps infections. All four of them had been properly vaccinated.
On the domestic front, New York and New Jersey reported a mumps outbreak a just a few months ago, reinforcing the need for everyone to be up-to-date with routine vaccinations.
So, if you’re off to Ireland soon, and desire a mumps-free excursion, don’t rely upon the ‘luck of the Irish’. Review your vaccination history with your travel doctor. You may need other travel vaccines for Ireland, besides routine vaccinations. If you do need a mumps vaccine, since it is only 80% effective, bring a four leaf clover along, just in case.