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Mumps outbreak picking up steam in Missouri

April 25, 2006
By: John Amick
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - While bird flu has dominated national headlines as of late, the recent outbreak of mumps has ascended as a growing problem in the Midwest.

According to Missouri health officials, in the last four months there have been 43 reported cases in Missouri up to April 24. Of the 43 reported cases, 12 have been confirmed and 31 are probable to be mumps. Iowa health officials have reported over 1,100 suspected, probable, and confirmed cases in the same time period.

Brian Quinn, spokesman for the Missouri Health Department said the cases in Missouri are mostly in the northwest part of the state, while some are being reported in the western tier. He said very few cases are coming from the southeast, east, and central sections.

There has been one probable case reported in Boone County, according to Quinn.

Quinn said only two cases of mumps in Missouri have been linked to the Iowa outbreak.

"Virus prevention is the best medicine for the mumps," Quinn said. "We're encouraging people to use good personal hygiene and to check their immunity status to make sure they've had their vaccines."

The majority of the cases since the beginning of this year have been among 18-25 year olds, many of whom had been vaccinated.

Dr. Susan Even, from the MU student health center, said she realizes the problem of an outbreak on a college campus, a place where close quartered living and cafeteria style eating can easily foster a spread of mumps.

"There hasn't been a problem on campus yet," said Dr. Even. "Part of the reason is that MU requires students to show two MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccinations in order to be eligible to enroll in classes."

Even, Quinn, and state officials agree that despite receving two MMR vaccinations in their life, a person can still get the mumps.

"The MMR vaccine isn't as good in preventing the spread of mumps as we once thought," Even said.

According to the health department, the MMR vaccination is 90 percent effective after two doses and 80 percent effective after one dose.

Health officials suggest a person get their first MMR vaccination within the first 12 to 15 months of their life. The second dose is suggested to be received between the ages of four and six, though a second (or first) dose can be received at anytime.

"Those ages are suggested so the body can develop good antibody response to the vaccination at an early stage," Even said.

The strain of mumps circulating in the Midwest is called Genotype G, which has also been spreading through the UK since 2004. But Even says this strain is not overly alarming due to the health care community's familiarity with it.

"This is not an unusual strain of the virus, we've seen this before," Even said.

Quinn said the health department urges both those who have not gotten a second shot to get one and those who have developed mumps to stay home as to not spread to others.

"This may be about the worst mumps outbreak in this country in the last several years," Quinn said.

People who should not get a vaccination, according to the health department, include those with certain allergic reactions to substances, such as gelatin, neomycin, or a previous MMR vaccination. Those who are moderately or severely ill should wait to get the vaccine. Pregnant women should wait until after childbirth and women in general are recommended to wait to get pregnant until four weeks after a vaccination.

Those with HIV/AIDS, steriod treated illnesses, cancer, a low platelet count, or who have had a recent blood transfusion should consult a doctor before receiving the MMR vaccine.

The mumps can cause fever, headache, and swollen glands and can lead to deafness, meningitis, and painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries and possibly death.