County is free from mumps

Friday, September 9, 2016

The mumps outbreak in Northwest Arkansas has not spread to Carroll County.

Meg Mirivel, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said that although the outbreak is quite large, it is still confined to Springdale and the surrounding areas.

"It is possible it could spread, but right now it hasn't," she said.

There are currently 76 cases of mumps in the Springdale area, Mirivel said, and health officials expect the numbers to keep changing.

A press release from ADH says that the department is investigating the outbreak of mumps. This is the largest cluster of mumps cases that Arkansas has experienced since 2010, the press release says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mumps is a viral illness that is transmitted by direct contact with respiratory droplets or saliva from an infected person. It is best known for painful, swollen salivary glands that show up as puffy cheeks and swollen jaw. Boys may also have painful, swollen testicles. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. There is no

treatment, the release says, and symptoms usually resolve themselves within a few weeks. Mumps is usually a mild disease in children, it states, but adults may have more serious disease with complications.

"Mumps is easily spread from person to person," said Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist and outbreak response medical director for ADH. "We expect to see more cases in the coming weeks. We urge Arkansans to make sure that they and their loved ones are up-to-date on the MMR vaccine."

Mirivel said the best thing people can do to prevent the spread of mumps is to make sure they are up to date on their Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

"Most people need two doses to be safe," she said.

The MMR vaccine is safe and effective, the ADH press release says. Two doses of MMR vaccine is 88 percent effective in preventing mumps, it states. It is a live virus vaccine and is not recommended for pregnant women or patients with a weakened immune system. Adults born before 1957 are generally considered to be immune to mumps and do not need to receive the MMR vaccine, the release says.

The current CDC recommendations for MMR vaccination are as follows:

* For children younger than 6 years of age, one dose of MMR vaccine or MMRV (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella) vaccine at age 12-15 months, followed by a second dose of either MMR vaccine or MMRV vaccine at age 4-6 years.

* For children age 7 through 18 years not previously vaccinated, one dose of MMR vaccine or MMRV vaccine, followed by a second dose of either MMR vaccine or MMRV vaccine at least four weeks after the first dose.

* For adults born in 1957 or later and not previously vaccinated, one dose of MMR vaccine.

* A second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for adults born in 1957 or later, who are students in a post-secondary educational institution, work in a health care facility, or plan to travel internationally. The second dose should be administered a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

MMR vaccines are available at the local health unit and may also be available at the doctor's office or local pharmacy, the release says.

While Northwest Arkansas has the highest opt-out rate for vaccinations based on medical, religious or philosophical exemptions, Mirivel said health officials do not believe that is connected to the recent mumps outbreak.

"It is an area of concern because those people will be vulnerable," she said, "but we don't think it's connected."

In response to the outbreak, the release says ADH is requiring students in the same school with vaccine exemptions for the MMR vaccine to be excluded from school for 26 days from the date of exposure and until the outbreak has ended. Students with non-medical exemptions, who receive the recommend doses of MMR vaccine, may return to school immediately, it says. Right now, this outbreak affects schools in the Springdale School District, the release states. ADH is working with people who have potentially been exposed and contacting area clinics and hospitals to make sure they are aware that they may see cases of mumps.

Green Forest school nurse Lana Boggs said parents who have requested the vaccination exemptions for their children have been notified about the mumps outbreak.

"The vaccine is the really the only preventative measure. It's a viral illness spread by droplets," she said. "So be sure to wash your hands and don't eat or drink after anyone."

Boggs said that there have been no reported cases of Carroll County children catching mumps yet to her knowledge. She also said that parents should remember that all three Carroll County schools will hold flu clinics this October.

"The flu is a viral illness just like mumps," Boggs said. "All the schools will hold flu clinics this October if parents want to get the vaccine for their kids. Green Forest will have ours on Oct. 21."

Mirivel said people can visit Healthy.Arkansas.Gov for more information about mumps and vaccination, to find a local health unit or to get updates on the current mumps case count.

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