A total of 455 cases were confirmed from April to June 2006 compared with just 23 over the same period in 2005. An HPA spokesman said this leap in prevalence has been largely due to outbreaks of the highly contagious disease, often among hard-to-reach communities such as travellers or where MMR uptake is below average.
It is also thought to be one reason behind the rising uptake of the MMR vaccine as local publicity surrounding outbreaks raises awareness of the risks when children are not vaccinated.
The latest HPA figures on the uptake of the triple vaccine confirm that parents are more willing to have their children immunised.
The figures show that 84 per cent of two-year-olds had the MMR jab in the financial year 2005/6, up from 81 per cent the previous year.