Mumps Outbreak in Ohio: Vaccinated Kids Getting Sick


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The mumps is a contagious disease that has no cure. Image by the CDC

The mumps is a contagious disease that has no cure. Image by the CDC

There’s an outbreak of mumps in Central Ohio – there are nearly 180 sick people – and many of them have received the MMR vaccine, which includes vaccination against the mumps. What’s going on?

What Is Mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection that affects your salivary glands  – common signs are swelling of the face and jaw.

Currently there is no treatment – and complications, although rare, can occur.

Before the mumps vaccination in the United States became prevalent, mumps was a common illness that affected many children and young adults.

Although this vaccine-preventable disease is rare, there are outbreaks of the mumps from time to time.

Mumps Outbreak in Ohio

According to the Ohio Department of Health, a total of 179 people have the mumps. The youngest case is a nine month old baby, and the oldest case is a 70 year-old. The onset of symptoms began with the first case on January 7, 2014, and the most recent onset of symptoms began on April 7, 2014.

According to The Columbus Dispatcher, two people have become temporarily deaf due to their illness, though one has recovered.

How Mumps Makes You Sick

Mumps is a contagious disease that starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite. After a few days, your salivary glands become swollen on one or both sides of you face. Mumps virus spreads via saliva or mucus, from the mouth, nose, or throat. You can catch mumps from touching contaminated surfaces and sharing cups and utensils with a sick person.

An infection person usually is most contagious in the time before their salivary glands begin to swell and within the five days after the swelling has started. For this reason, the CDC recommends isolating patients for five days after their glands begin to swell.

While there is no cure for mumps, you can treat the symptoms and most people recover on their own within a week or two. However, there are complications such as deafness, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and meningitis. In females who have reached puberty, there’s a possibility of inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis) and/or breasts (mastitis) – and in males who have reached puberty, there’s a risk of orchitis – inflammation of the testicles.

The tale-tell sign of mumps is swollen salivary glands. Image by the CDC.

The tale-tell sign of mumps is swollen salivary glands. Image by the CDC.

Mumps: Vaccine Preventable – Or Not?

The CDC recommends a vaccination schedule that includes the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which kids get between the ages of 12 and 18 months, and a second ‘booster’ dose between the ages of four and six years.

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview the Ohio Department of Health. We asked Melanie Amato, Senior Public Information Officer, about the best way to prevent mumps, and she said, “Get vaccinated, wash your hands and stay home. The Ohio Administrative Code (OAC 3701-3-13, (P)) states that “a person with mumps shall be isolated, including exclusion from school or child care center, for five days after the onset of parotid swelling.”  ODH recommends this for all suspect, probable and confirmed cases.”

I also had the opportunity to interview Jason McDonald, Media Relations for CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. Interestingly, some of the people who are sick with mumps have been vaccinated against the disease. I asked Mr. McDonald, why we’d see sickness in kids who’ve kept up with their vaccination schedule. Mr. McDonald responded,

“… The MMR vaccine is very effective against measles, mumps, and rubella, but it is not perfect. MMR vaccine reduces the risk of getting mumps, especially if you get two doses. People who have received two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 9 times less likely to get mumps than unvaccinated people who have the same exposure to mumps virus. However, some people who received two doses of MMR can still get mumps, especially if they have an intense exposure to the mumps virus. If they do get mumps, people who have been vaccinated are likely to have less severe illness than unvaccinated people with mumps.”

Mumps is Rare, But You Can Still Get Sick

Mumps is rare in the United States, thanks to vaccination programs – however, outbreaks can and still do occur.

Washing your hands and staying home when you are sick are some simple steps to take to prevent the spread of disease.

Are there any mumps cases where you are?

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