More mumps cases reported in the Midwest

Officials say vaccination remains the best way to halt the disease's spread.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted May 8, 2006

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Washington -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the nation's recent mumps outbreak -- the largest seen in the country in more than 20 years -- to continue to grow over the next several weeks.

By late April, about 1,000 cases had been reported in eight Midwest states, with most occurring in Iowa. Other cases are being investigated in seven additional states. "We won't be surprised if there are more cases in more states just given the nature of mumps and the way this outbreak is progressing," said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH.

She cautioned physicians to be on the alert for patients with symptoms of the viral infection. She noted that many people have never seen a case of the mumps since the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine became available in 1967. Fever, headache and other symptoms associated with a virus are common, and many people also get swollen and inflamed salivary glands.

Although mumps usually runs its course in a little over a week, about 10% of those infected can develop encephalitis or an inflammation of the testes, Dr. Gerberding said. To date, there have been about 20 hospitalizations but no deaths.

The best protection continues to be vaccination, she stressed. Although the efficacy of the mumps vaccine is being studied, there is no information that suggests a problem with the vaccine, she noted.

Instead, the difficulty most likely involves vaccine coverage, she said. There is a group of college-age students, the demographic primarily affected by the disease, who were less likely to have received the vaccine. Some also may have received only one dose of the preventive.

Even after receiving the recommended two doses, about 10% of people remain susceptible, Dr. Gerberding said. Thus, the CDC has speculated that those who had not received both doses, coupled with those who remain vulnerable despite being fully immunized, might account for the outbreak. Investigators from the agency's Epidemic Intelligence Service are studying these issues and the current path of the illness.

Iowa announced April 20 that it is undertaking a statewide campaign to vaccinate everyone at high risk. The state is focusing on 35 counties where there are college or university facilities but will include nonstudents, primarily those ages 18 to 22, as well. The state is hoping to vaccinate everyone soon, before students begin returning home for the summer.

Neighboring South Dakota is also on the alert for cases of the mumps. So far, all suspected cases have proven negative.

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External links

Iowa Dept. of Public Health on mumps (link)

Centers from Disease Control and Prevention on mumps (link)

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