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Mumps and the media: changes in the reporting of mumps in response to newspaper coverage
  1. Babatunde Olowokure1,
  2. Lilian Clark1,
  3. Alex J Elliot2,
  4. Douglas Harding3,
  5. Ann Fleming4
  1. 1Health Protection Agency, Regional Surveillance Unit (West Midlands), Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Birmingham Research Unit of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Lordswood, Harborne, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, London, UK
  4. 4Health Protection Agency, West Midlands, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr B Olowokure
 Health Protection Agency, Regional Surveillance Unit (West Midlands), 9th Floor, Ladywood House, 45 Stephenson Street, Birmingham B2 4DY, UK; babatunde.olowokure{at}


Objective: To determine the links between national newspaper coverage of mumps after a press release and increased reports of clinical mumps cases.

Design and setting: A cross sectional study involving people aged 15–24 years in the West Midlands, and England and Wales. Reported mumps cases were obtained from statutory notifications of infectious diseases to the Health Protection Agency and reports to the Royal College of General Practitioners Weekly Returns Service. Data on newspaper coverage was obtained by retrospectively reviewing the Health Protection Agency press archives.

Main outcome measure: The effect of newspaper coverage was assessed by examining the 4 weeks before the press release (weeks 15–18 of the year), a 2-week period that included the week of the press release (weeks 19–20) and 4 weeks after the press release (weeks 21–24).

Main results: Mumps notification rates were declining before increased newspaper coverage. Significant increases in national (from 28.3/100 000 population (95% CI 26.5 to 30.1) in weeks 18 to 42.8 (95% CI 40.6 to 45) in week 20) and local (from 9.8 (95% CI 7.4 to 12.1) to 21.2 (95% CI 17.7 to 24.6)) notification rates were seen after increased newspaper coverage. Reports rapidly declined after decreased media interest.

Conclusions: The reported incidence rate of mumps seems to be markedly influenced by the level of newspaper coverage. This has implications for surveillance activities.

  • HPA, Health Protection Agency
  • NOID, notifications of infectious disease
  • RCGP, Royal College of General Practitioners
  • WRS, Weekly Returns Service

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  • Funding: AJE is jointly funded by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Health Protection Agency.

  • Competing interests: None.

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