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Mumps Outbreak Highlights Importance of Vaccines

Jose Romero, MD, FAAP
Section Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Arkansas Children’s Hospital
Professor of Pediatrics, UAMS

 

Here’s the takeaway from the ongoing mumps outbreak in Northwest Arkansas: Children MUST be vaccinated against communicable diseases.

 

We have been blessed in this country to rarely see diseases like mumps. I’ve seen just a handful of cases in the United States during my time as a pediatrician. We live in a country where these diseases don’t happen frequently. Families forget that they can be life-threatening because they haven’t heard about them in ages.

 

But mumps is not just swollen jowls and a fever. This is a disease that has serious consequences like meningoencephalitis and deafness. The good news is that this isn’t out of our control. Ensuring children have received the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) is the very best thing parents can do to protect their kids. Make sure your child is fully immunized by following the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule. We want toddlers to receive the first dose of the MMR between a 12 and 15 months of age. Pre-schoolers should receive an MMR booster between 4 and 6 years old.

 

There’s a lot of conversation among parents about pursuing an alternative vaccine schedule for their children. Don’t take the bait. Vaccine schedules should not be staggered or altered. The CDC-recommended vaccine schedule has been researched – time and time again – and proven to be safe and effective. By delaying, you may be putting your son or daughter at greater risk for mumps and other communicable diseases.

I know parents have questions about mumps and the vaccine. I hope this info can help:

How is Arkansas Children’s protecting patients?

To protect patients we must first protect their physicians, nurses, and other care providers. Here at Arkansas Children’s, we have verified MMR status for all of our staff. We also ensure that we have equipment on hand like special masks that reduce the risk of transmission.
Of course, we could never stress good hand hygiene enough. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water to prevent outbreaks of all illnesses. But get the vaccine on time first and foremost!

What should I do if my child isn’t old enough to receive the MMR yet?

Families with children under a year of age should be aware of any exposure their child might have had to mumps. They should report those to their pediatrician ASAP. Their pediatrician can recommend any preventive measures that might be appropriate in those situations. This is why herd immunity is crucial. We have to protect little ones who haven’t had the vaccine yet or are immune-compromised.

How do I know if my child is at risk for mumps?

First, were they exposed to someone else who had it? If so, take note of the following symptoms:

  • Fever that lasts longer than three days
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Swollen salivary glands, swollen face and/or jaw

What happens next?

Going forward, the Health Department will try to contain the outbreak in Northwest Arkansas, identify all cases and figure out the sources of contact in those cases. If necessary, additional vaccines will be given. 

My child has been vaccinated. Should I be worried?

The vaccine is considered to be 88 percent effective when someone has had both the initial and second dose. We know, of course, that nothing is 100 percent effective. But this is our best line of defense. Parents who have vaccinated their children should rest assured they have done everything they can to keep their family safe.

Why do people choose not to vaccinate?

My experience has been that it’s primarily one of concern on a parent’s part. They’re worried about giving something to their child that could cause harm. That means their concern is in the right place.
When I talk to them, I point out that vaccines have been studied extensively – and more so the MMR because of the alleged and now to put to rest association with autism. We know, without a doubt, that the MMR doesn’t cause autism. That vaccine has been very well studied. It’s very safe. It prevents the disease. Most times in my experience, when you explain this to parents, they understand the benefits and decide to vaccinate.

What about exemptions?

There is only one good reason for an exemption: Your child’s pediatrician has said that he or she has a medical contraindicated to the vaccine. Those are very rare situations. Virtually everyone else should get the MMR. Period.

Answers on the Mumps

Arkansas Children’s is your resource for care close to home. We’re here for families who have questions about the recent mumps outbreak in Northwest Arkansas. 

Please print or share these flyers as needed to assist families in your community!

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