State says vaccination rules could protect against mumps
DENVER – One day after Colorado reported its first mumps case since an outbreak in the Midwest, health officials said Wednesday that strict vaccination requirements could help insulate the state from some of the problems elsewhere.”This isn’t West Nile virus, it’s not pandemic flu, it’s not even avian flu,” Colorado chief medical officer Dr. Ned Calonge said. But “it underscores the importance of getting our children vaccinated. We’re talking all the way up to college kids,” he said.Colorado’s immunization rate for mumps is about 90 percent, Calonge said.The case reported Tuesday in a 45-year-old Douglas County woman was the state’s third this year but the first since monitoring was intensified because of the Midwestern outbreak.
Iowa has reported at least 1,120 cases, and Nebraska and Kansas have each reported at least 100. Calonge said Colorado is not part of that outbreak.In Colorado, students must show documentation of two mumps shots before entering school and before entering college, unless they claim personal, medical or religious exemptions.Mumps is rarely fatal, but those who catch the virus can suffer fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swelling of salivary glands. Severe cases can cause deafness, meningitis, encephalitis or other ailments.Because mumps can spread through the air, an outbreak can grab hold when people in close quarters who haven’t been fully immunized are exposed to someone who is sick, Calonge said. That makes schools prime ground for disease to spread, although hand washing and basic hygiene can curb it.
The University of Colorado last week alerted students and faculty to the outbreak in Iowa. Records for the Boulder campus show 2,242 of the 28,000 students are not fully vaccinated against mumps.Of the 26,100 students at Colorado State University, 432 claimed exemptions to getting both mumps shots, health service spokeswoman Jane Higgins said.She advised students to get vaccinated if they aren’t already, to seek medical attention for symptoms, and to be careful about sharing food and drinks.”Mostly, students are asking if a third (shot) would be useful, and the answer is, there’s no evidence a third would be helpful,” Higgins said.
Health departments, emergency-room workers and schools know to watch for clusters of mumps cases to detect possible outbreaks. So far three cases in Colorado have been confirmed this year, and 24 potential cases are being tested.Colorado had six cases last year but typically gets about two or three.Anyone born before 1957, when the vaccine became widely available, probably has been exposed to the disease and is likely immune, but if Colorado suffers an outbreak, immunization would be recommended to those who never had mumps, Calonge said.Medical assistant Brendan Polun at Colorado Kids Pediatrics in Englewood said he received two calls by midday Wednesday from parents asking about mumps but said no one has panicked. He expected more calls in the coming week.”In our practice people get freaked out pretty fast, so I’m sure it’s going to come,” he said.
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