The routine vaccination of infants and young children with the measles, mumps rubella vaccine or MMR beginning on or at the first year of age followed by a second vaccination between four and six years of age had been effective in preventing new outbreaks of mumps for 25 years. However, the state of Iowa has reported more than 1,200 confirmed cases of mumps beginning in December of 2005 and continuing into 2006.
In a joint statement issued by American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first cases were reported among college students in Iowa. Cases in Illinois, Indian, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin are under investigation with three states bordering Kentucky reporting confirmed cases. To date there has been no cases reported in Kentucky. However the Kentucky Department for Public Health believes that we will probably see cases here.
The majority of the cases reported in Iowa were among young people between the ages of 18 and 25 on college campuses. Although the source of the outbreak has not been identified, the virus stain currently responsible for this outbreak is possibly the same as the virus causing an outbreak in the United Kingdom. One difference though is the majority of young people infected in the UK have not been vaccinated.
Since mumps is a viral infection spread, like most viruses, by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs, the best protection against mumps is the MMR vaccine as well as practicing good, basic hygiene. Proper hand washing techniques, sanitary food preparation and cleaning of commonly used surfaces are simple ways to protect yourself and your family from viruses and infections.
Because most people born before 1957 were exposed to and possibly had the mumps this group of adults is believed to have immunity to the virus. Unless you have had the mumps or have been vaccinated you are still vulnerable. People who are exposed to the virus do not necessarily get the mumps and of those who do over 50 percent have either very mild or no symptoms.
The common symptoms of mumps are fever, headache, muscle ache, loss of appetite, tiredness usually followed by the swelling of the salivary glands under the ears. The swelling can occur on one or both sides.
The symptoms usually appear anywhere from 12 to 25 days after exposure. While serious complications with mumps are rare, they do occur. The most serious complication in children is hearing loss. For this and other reasons make sure that your children are immune to mumps through vaccination.
Vaccines have been responsible for the control of many serious illnesses that were one common in the United States. Your healthcare provider is the best source for information about types of immunizations needed by children and adults. In addition to the MMR vaccine, infants and children should receive regularly scheduled vaccinations to protect them from other diseases.
For more information on immunization schedules call the FCHD.
Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559 or visit the websites FCHD.org.