Question of the Week

April 10, 2006


What do you know about mumps? To many teens and young adults, mumps is a disease of the past.

"Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects the parotid glands -- one of three pairs of salivary glands, located below and in front of your ears. If you or your child contracts mumps, it can cause swelling in one or both parotid glands. However, your odds of contracting mumps aren't very high. Mumps was common until the mumps vaccine was licensed in 1967. Before the vaccine, up to 200,000 cases of mumps occurred each year in the United States. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically, so there are now fewer than 300 cases a year. Mumps is still a common disease in many parts of the world, though, so prevention is important."

Of those fewer than 300 cases:

"Unvaccinated children between the ages of 2 and 12 are most commonly infected, but the infection can occur in other age groups."

This year:

"Iowa, April 6, 2006 - Over 350 mumps cases have now been reported in the state.  That's more cases than a typical year in the entire country."

Iowa has had the most cases during this particular epidemic, and unvaccinated children are the minority these cases.

"The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is investigating whether the Douglas County cases, and two additional cases in Saline and Norton counties, are related to a mumps epidemic sweeping through Iowa. Iowa has reported about 300 cases. The two KU students, both 19, became ill in the past three weeks, KU officials said in a statement. One tested positive for mumps over spring break while at home in Illinois and has since recovered and returned to campus. The second student was under a doctor's supervision. ... But with most Douglas County cases occurring among 19- to 26-year-olds, health officials are concerned that the illness could make its way through the campus. 'The kids are in close contact, and this spreads quickly,' said Sheryl Tirol-Goodwin of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. ... 'Since it is a contagious illness and we have a very mobile society, we would expect there could be some impact (from Iowa) on surrounding states,' said Howard Rodenberg, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment division of health. ... People with mumps can be contagious before and after their symptoms appear. 'Be mindful,' Tirol-Goodwin said. 'Wash your hands. Don't cough or sneeze on people. If you have symptoms, stay home.'"

Symptoms to watch for include:

"Fever, headache, muscle ache, and swelling of the glands close to the jaw."

Why the concern?

"Complications [from mumps include] Meningitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas and deafness (usually permanent)."

To avoid these and other possible complications, it is recommended that most people get vaccinated. The decision to get vaccinated involves taking into consideration each person's unique health status. Because of complications that some may encounter as a result of the vaccine, it is important for individuals to talk with their doctors about what is right for them.

"For mumps vaccine, the following should be considered:

  • "Allergies--Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction....
  • "Pregnancy--...[U]se during pregnancy is not recommended, because mumps vaccine may infect the placenta, although the vaccine has not been shown to cause birth defects.
  • "Breast-feeding--Mumps vaccine virus may pass into breast milk. However, this vaccine has not been reported to cause problems in nursing babies.
  • "Children--Use is not recommended for infants up to 12 months of age....
  • "Other medicines--Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. ... [I]t is especially important that your health care professional know if you have received any of the
    following: * Cancer medicines or * Corticosteroids ... or * Radiation therapy...
  • "Other medical problems--The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of mumps vaccine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems..."

Questions of the Week:
Why do teens and young adults need to know about mumps in 2006? What should you, your peers, and your family know about mumps? Why and how does knowledge of an epidemic in Iowa affect those who live hundreds -- or thousands -- of miles away?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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