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MMR vaccine critical in fight against mumps outbreak

Posted on May. 16, 2017 ( comments)
Mumps virus

As the number of confirmed mumps infections across Washington continues to increase, MultiCare Health System, in conjunction with state and local health authorities, is emphasizing the importance of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

As of May 10, 834 cases of mumps were reported in Washington since the outbreak began in October, including 296 cases in King County and 59 cases in Pierce County. Infection rates are currently in decline, but as a comparison, reported cases statewide totaled only two in 2013, nine in 2014 and seven in 2015.

Mumps is a contagious viral illness best known for the swollen jaw and puffy cheeks that it causes. Mumps symptoms typically appear 16–18 days after exposure to someone who is infected and include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen/tender salivary glands under the ears.

Although most people recover from mumps completely within a few weeks, mumps can also lead to problems such as hearing loss and brain damage in severe cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to the Washington Department of Health, two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 88 percent effective at preventing infection with the mumps virus. Children should be vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second between the ages of 4–6.

Adults should have at least one mumps vaccination, with some people needing two. People born before 1957 are considered immune because they probably had mumps, but everyone born in 1957 or later should be vaccinated.

MMR vaccination within 72 hours after exposure may also prevent a person who was not fully vaccinated from getting sick. Unvaccinated, high-risk individuals, such as infants who are too young to get the vaccine, may be given another type of medication (Immune Globulin) to help protect them from infection if they are exposed.

Although most mumps cases recover within a few weeks, the MMR vaccine also protects people from the more serious diseases of measles and rubella.

Measles, which was eliminated in the United States at the start of the century, is making a comeback in some areas as more people decline to vaccinate their children.

“The bottom line is that measles is a serious and highly contagious infection,” says Sue Gustafson, Director of Infection Prevention at MultiCare. “Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated should arrange for the vaccine as soon as possible.”

The CDC notes that a major factor contributing to mumps outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps. Also, certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus.

Though it was a common childhood illness before the 1970s, vaccinations have led to a 99 percent decrease in the number of people with mumps.

Some parents might worry that the vaccine causes autism. According to the CDC, signs of autism typically appear around the same time that children are recommended to receive the MMR vaccine. However, vaccine safety experts, including experts at CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism.

If you think your child has mumps, visit a Mary Bridge Pediatric Urgent Care or see your child’s pediatrician right away. Please notify staff immediately that you think your child has mumps.

If your child needs the MMR vaccine, make an appointment with your pediatric provider. MultiCare also offers these convenient walk-in locations:

Adults can receive the vaccination at the MultiCare Express Clinic in Lakewood (vaccines for patients 19 and older)

Additional resources

Details about the local mumps outbreak from Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Details about the mumps outbreak from Washington State Department of Health

About The Author

Mark Swart

Mark Swart joined MultiCare Health System after retiring from Army Public Affairs at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wa. He has extensive storytelling and communications experience from operations around the globe. Mark enjoys being active outdoors, whether it is running, sailing, motorcycling or even working in his yard.

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