As statewide cases of mumps continue to rise, the reach of the outbreak is extending outside of the central Ohio area to which it was initially contained.
Both Athens and Belmont counties are now reporting a single case of the rarely contracted virus, bringing the state total to 150 cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). That is more than halfway to the total mumps cases reported not just statewide, but nationally, in 2012.
The outbreak is prompting state and local health officials to remind residents to bring their vaccinations up to date and follow common preventative measures.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to remind people to see if their immunizations are up to date,” said Mary DiOrio, state epidemiologist with the Ohio Department of Health.
Though mumps used to be a common childhood disease, a vaccination introduced in the 1960s has reduced the reported cases by 99 percent, according to ODH.
In the late 1980s, a second dose of the vaccination was recommended to strengthen the inoculation effects for those vaccinated around 1 year of age, explained Marietta Vickie Kelly, director of nursing for the Marietta City Health Department.
“Because we give it at age 1 and it was live, some 1-year-olds weren’t able to make a robust enough response for the effects to last,” she explained.
At least locally, that second dose was initially offered for seventh graders. However, common practice eventually shifted to giving the booster dose around kindergarten.
“There are some kids that might have fallen through the cracks. Maybe some kids never got that second dose,” Kelly said.
Therefore, students are especially encouraged to check their vaccination records, she said.
Vaccination is not a guarantee against the disease, pointed out DiOrio. Many of the individuals currently diagnosed with measles report having one or both doses of the shot. The vaccination is generally believed to be effective in preventing measles in 88 percent of those who receive two doses, she said.
However, the current outbreak would likely be much more widespread if those reporting vaccinations had been unvaccinated. Additionally, their symptoms would likely be worse if they had not been vaccinated, said DiOrio.
People in Southeastern Ohio should not be overly concerned about contracting the disease, said Amy Murphy, regional epidemiologist for Southeast Ohio.
The individuals with reported mumps cases in Athens and Belmont counties have ties to the epicenter of the outbreak in Franklin County, she noted.
However, people should always be vigorously following preventative measures, said Murphy.
“Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you’re sick,” she explained.
Outside of pain, fever, and swelling, mumps is normally quite harmless, said DiOrio. However, some rare but serious complications, such as meningitis, deafness and sterility can be associated with the disease, she said.
Because of the relatively long incubation period associated with mumps-16 to 18 days according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-it is likely that more cases will be cropping up in the coming weeks, said DiOrio.
“We do know we’re going to continue to see more cases of mumps,” she said.