There’s a new mumps outbreak in Northern Arkansas, and closely behind it, people who believe in forced vaccination are crying out for more the heads of the unvaccinated…but this time around, 90% of the kids affected are fully vaccinated.
Mumps outbreaks are on the rise, and everyone would like to blame parents who opt out of childhood vaccinations or use a modified schedule. But in many of the recent cases, the people affected are vaccinated. This leads to a lot of questions, and it seems that no one has a definitive answer to the big one: why are all of these outbreaks happening?
What IS mumps?
Mumps is a disease that is caused by the mumps virus.
Symptoms usually start to appear 16-18 days after infection, but can show up as early as 12 days after, and as late as 25 days after.
The illness usually begins with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by the disease’s trademark: puffy chipmunk-cheeks that caused by the swelling of salivary glands. Some people experience very mild symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all.
Mumps was a common illness among babies, children, and young adults before vaccinations for mumps (MMR and MMRV) were routinely given (and before better sanitation measures evolved).
Most people fully recover from mumps within two weeks. Like measles, the most serious complication that is associated with the virus is encephalitis (which is also a possible adverse reaction to the MMR vaccine – go figure), which can lead to permanent disability or death, but this is very rare.
Mumps is highly contagious: it is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The vaccinated are not always protected from outbreaks…
On September 15, 5News reported that the case count in Northwest Arkansas was up to 150 across multiple school districts. Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Epidemiologist Dirk Haselow said that even though vaccination events are being scheduled throughout the region, the public shouldn’t be surprised if the number of positive cases more than doubles in the next few weeks.
Haslow added that while the MMR vaccine is about 88% effective, “Outbreaks across the country, lately, have been among well-vaccinated populations.” The health department said of the school-aged population, about 90 percent of those affected were up to date on their shots.
It is now September 16, and the ADH reports that 196 possible cases of mumps are being investigated in the state.
Oklahoma is also experiencing an outbreak: In Enid, there are four confirmed cases, and at least 34 suspected cases.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health says the outbreak could be linked to the outbreak in neighboring Arkansas.
But those aren’t the only current outbreaks…
As of August 13, 2016, the CDC reported mumps outbreaks in 40 states (AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MA, MD, MI, MN, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NYC, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, & WI) in the U.S. reported mumps infections in 1,786* people to CDC.
In 1988, the CDC recommended doubling up on the mumps vaccination for children, but outbreaks are still occurring – and those outbreaks can’t be blamed on kids whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate. A large number of the people who catch the mumps are vaccinated.
Why are there so many outbreaks, and why aren’t vaccinated people immune (pun intended) from contracting the illness?
Cristina Cardemil, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, does not have the answer to this question.
Waning immunity is a difficult question to answer, as many different factors such as vaccination rates (including community pockets with lower-than-average vaccine uptake), dose number, and individual predisposition factor into it, Cardemil said. She added that some studies have supported the idea that mumps immunity dissipates as time goes by, but more studies need to be done for the results to become conclusive.
I guess the answer to the question is, nobody knows why a growing number of people are contracting the mumps. And no matter how you feel about vaccines overall, this is an important question to consider.