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March 31, 2006

Mumps Outbreak: Another Reason to Vaccinate

Update 15 Apr 2006: The mumps epidemic is spreading throughout the US Midwest.

"We are calling this an epidemic," said Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, explaining that mumps has spread to more than one-third of the state and does not appear to be confined to certain age groups or other sectors of the population.

Quinlisk said Iowa has had about five cases of mumps a year in recent years, and this is the first large outbreak in nearly 20 years.

"We're trying to figure out why is it happening, why is it happening in Iowa and why is it happening right now. We don't know,' she said.

CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said the agency has no answers yet. But Quinlisk said one theory is that the infection was brought over from England — perhaps by a college student — because the strain seen in Iowa has been identified by the CDC as the same one that has caused tens of thousands of cases of the mumps in a major outbreak in Britain over the past two years.

A mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967. Iowa law requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against measles and rubella, and the mumps vaccine is included in the same shot. The state's last major outbreak was in 1987, when 476 people were infected.

Of the 245 patients this year, at least 66 percent had had the recommended two-shot vaccination, while 14 percent had received one dose, the Public Health Department said.

"The vaccine is working," Quinlisk said. "The vaccine certainly was made to cover this particular strain, because it's a fairly common strain of mumps." Quinlisk said the vaccine overall is considered about 95 percent effective.

Imagine how many Iowans would have mumps now, if they had not been vaccinated at all. Here are the possible complications of mumps: Meningitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas and deafness (usually permanent).

More on this story
. Mumps info.


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