1.) What is Mumps?
Mumps is a viral infection that is spread by respiratory secretions (i.e., coughing, sneezing). It most commonly causes painful swelling of the salivary glands, low-grade fever, headache, and poor appetite. Complications of mumps can include swelling of the testicles, which can potentially lead to sterility, pancreatitis, deafness, and even encephalitis—an infection of the lining of the brain. In rare cases, mumps can even lead to death.
2.) Why is Mumps Currently Being Discussed?
Due to the widespread implementation of the MMR vaccine, mumps is no longer very common in the United States. However, in 2016 there were over 5000 cases documented. The number is potentially more, considering it is not mandatory to report cases to CDC. Although Louisiana had less than 50 cases of Mumps, our neighboring states of TX and AK had more than 300 cases each. These numbers may not seem staggering; however, it is a drastic increase from previous years. This has put healthcare providers on alert to look for cases of the virus. The outbreaks can occur at any time of the year making it important to consider as a year round diagnosis. The majority of cases in 2015-16 were in the young adult and teenage populations at universities. This is likely due to close living quarters on college campuses and the effectiveness of the vaccine over time. There were cases involving younger children as well.
3.) Why is the MMR vaccine important?
The MMR vaccine (2 dose series) is over 88% effective at protecting a child from mumps. Since the introduction of the vaccine, there has been a 99% decrease in cases of mumps in the US. Unvaccinated children are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus and having a more severe illness. If a vaccinated child does contract mumps, the illness will be milder than if they had not been vaccinated at all. Therefore, even though the vaccine effectiveness in young adults may wane over time, it is still important to vaccinate the child when they are younger. The vaccine is routinely given first around 12-15 months of age and then again around 4-5 years old prior to school entry. Vaccinated individuals contribute to herd immunity which helps to contain, lessen the severity of, and hopefully prevent outbreaks. Additionally, in most school systems, any unvaccinated child would have to remain out of school for at least 25 days after the last child in the school recovers from the illness. This is because those infected may not show signs of illness for up to 2-4 weeks post exposure. This length of absence from school would be very unfortunate considering the academic rigor of most schools. So please, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!! Vaccinations are the best way to protect your child from mumps and many other diseases!