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Mumps Outbreak Worsening in Midwest

Inadequate Vaccination May Be a Factor in Outbreak
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Complete Vaccination Recommended

"I have to emphasize that the best protection against mumpsmumps is the vaccine," Gerberding said.

"There's a lot of confusion right now about whether or not this outbreak is related to some problem with the vaccine. I really want to emphasize that while we are of course investigating the outbreak and we will learn more about the efficacy of the vaccine in this particular setting, we have absolutely no information to suggest that there's any problem with the vaccine.

"The problem here is with the lack of complete coverage of the vaccine," Gerberding said.

"Our vaccine program from mumps began in 1967 but just by nature there is a group of college-aged students who may be less likely to have received both doses of the mumps vaccine and are incompletely vaccinated. Therefore, they're susceptible when infection is introduced, and they have a very high chance of getting mumps under those environments."

Vaccine Not Perfect

"Although this is a very good vaccine, it's not perfect," Gerberding said. "About 10% of people who get both doses of the vaccine still remain susceptible to mumps."

Inadequate vaccination, less-than-perfect vaccine protection, crowded living conditions like college dorms, or close contact with family and friends on spring break or holidays could set off "a cascade of transmission that's going to take awhile to curtail and eventually stop," Gerberding said.

Since mumps has been rare in the U.S. for many years, doctors may need to brush up on the disease, which is caused by a virus, Gerberding said.

Headache, fever, tiredness, and swollen saliva glands are among the symptoms. But not everyone with mumps gets swollen glands, and people may not realize right away that they have mumps, giving the disease a chance to spread.

Rare Complications

With mumps, "people are usually ill for a week or so, but in some people, it can have serious complications," Gerberding says.

The CDC lists these severe (and rare) complications from mumps:

  • Inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (encephalitisencephalitis/meningitismeningitis)
  • Inflammation of the testicles (orchitis)
  • Inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts (oophoritis and mastitismastitis)
  • Spontaneous abortion
  • Deafness, usually permanent

Doctors should check with local health officials if they suspect mumps, and people should follow local recommendations about temporary isolation for people with mumps, Gerberding said.

As doctors become more aware of the mumps outbreak, they may be more likely to check for it, resulting in more reported cases, Gerberding also noted.

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