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Published on April 23, 2018

Don’t let mumps make a resurgence

Don’t let mumps make a resurgence

Fifty years after a vaccine to prevent mumps was licensed, the illness is attempting a comeback in Massachusetts and across the United States.

“There were about 186,000 reported mumps cases every year in the U.S. until the vaccine was licensed in 1967, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Since then, due to the effective vaccine, the number of mumps cases dropped more than 99 percent, but recently there has been an upswing in outbreaks,” said Janelle Laudone, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Cape Cod Hospital.

Mumps cases jumped to the highest number in a decade between January 2016 and June 2017, affecting more than 9,000 people in the U.S., according to the CDC. Many of those people had been fully vaccinated.

In June 2017, Massachusetts’ Public Health officials issued a statewide advisory following an outbreak of 35 confirmed cases in the first six months of the year. The last mumps outbreak in Massachusetts occurred in March 2016, with 252 reported cases, which is 15 times higher than the average outbreak case size.

“Mumps outbreaks are most likely to occur in a crowded environment such as a college campus, where students are in close contact with each other in dorm rooms or on sports teams. Because of this, adolescents and young adults are at the highest risk for mumps, a very contagious disease spread by saliva droplets through coughing or sneezing,” said Dr. Laudone.

The first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is given at about age 12-15 months. The next is given at age four to six years. Two doses are considered complete, but during mumps outbreaks, or if you are considered at high-risk by your doctor, the CDC’s advisory committee now recommends a third vaccine ‘booster,’ she said.

Everyone going to college does not need a third booster vaccine, according to Dr. Laudone.

“Watch for advisories from public health departments that will be issued if there are mumps cases near you. If we can immunize people who are at high risk of being exposed, then that will minimize the spread of the virus during an outbreak,” she said.

Do You Need a Booster?

According to the CDC, adults born after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. For additional information, contact your doctor or visit the CDC website.

Communities experiencing mumps outbreaks in 2017 included three Washington D.C. universities. Mumps were reported and vaccination advisories were issued at The Catholic University of America, Georgetown University and American University. With more than 740 reported cases, Hawaii saw a 6,000 percent increase in mumps last year.

The Miami Herald reported that cases of mumps infection have been nearly 10 times the annual average for the previous five years.

“There is no specific treatment for the mumps virus, so while the virus runs it course, the symptoms can be managed with plenty of rest, fluids and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and cheek swelling,” said Dr. Laudone. “If you have mumps, you need to stay at home for at least five days after the swelling begins. It’s important to isolate the disease to keep it from spreading.”

Unfortunately, this writer has seen the mumps first-hand. I was in elementary school in the 1970s when I came down with the mumps. Yes, it was memorable and miserable.

A day after spiking a fever and feeling more tired than I can ever remember, my left cheek swelled till I thought it would burst. I looked like a lopsided chipmunk. Pain throbbed just below and in front of my ear (the parotid glands). My body ached, and my puffy jaw made eating an agonizing chore for about a week.

Trust the experts: Two vaccines, or a third if you are in an area where there is a designated outbreak, are much easier than enduring the disease.