Western Australia’s top doctor says anti-vaccination activists are to blame for an outbreak of the mumps at one of Perth’s most prestigious private schools.
Fairfax Media understands three students have contracted mumps and other children are being tested to contain the outbreak at Guildford Grammar school.
Advice of the outbreak has been sent by the affected school to all parents detailing the requirements for booster shots.
A number of school events have been cancelled because of the highly contagious nature of mumps.
However, WA’s top doctor is angry that it should have occurred at all.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) WA president Michael Gannon told Radio 6PR Drive on Friday this was the kind of infectious disease that society should have seen off.
He laid the blame squarely at misinformation from anti-vaccination activists.
“There’s been an ill-formed scare campaign about the [mumps] vaccine. We’ve seen outbreaks of mumps in the Kimberley and the Pilbara and now it’s happened in Perth,” Dr Gannon said.
The AMA state president said that the anti-vaccine campaigners were completely to blame.
“Anyone who weakens the resolve of parents to have their children vaccinated or the community to aim past 95 per cent vaccination coverage contributes to outbreaks like this,” he said.
“It’s causing a great deal of anxiety to hundreds and hundreds of children and their parents. It’s absolutely ridiculous – it’s all readily preventable.”
Dr Gannon said that he had been contacted by GPs and parents concerned about the outbreak.
Mumps is very contagious. It starts with flu-like symptoms followed by facial swelling, swelling along the jaw and around the ear.
Dr Gannon said the school had taken the appropriate steps by informing parents of the outbreak and working closely with the Department of Health.
“I would like to congratulate the school for the action it has taken to inform parents and to offer booster shots to staff and students,” he said.
A spokesman for the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia said if one of their member schools were involved a rigorous policy was already in place.
“There are strict policies and processes that deal with the reporting and management of infectious diseases,” he said.
The Department of Health is one of the first agencies to be advised of any outbreak of an infectious disease.
A spokesman for the department said that there had been reports of three case of mumps in the Perth area in the past fortnight, but there was no concern for public health.
“The usual process is for contact tracing where people are identified who may have come into contact with an infected person,” he said.
“Those that have should contact their GP.”
Dr Gannon said that when there was an outbreak of mumps in a closed environment – like a school – it could spread like wildfire and on to other people and their families.
“The incubation period is over two weeks and an individual would be infectious for some time before symptoms present themselves,” he said.
“It just spreads to more people. If you’re vaccinated you’re protected.”
Dr Gannon said less than one per cent of people couldn’t be vaccinated because of allergies or other medical conditions.
“Most of us should be doing our bit to protect the rest of the community,” he said.