Last year about this time, public health officials in Iowa were taken off guard by a sudden outbreak of mumps. The source of the outbreak was never officially confirmed, though DNA testing of the virus found it matched a strain going around at the time in Europe. Public health specialist Deb Scholten says the outbreak was a good learning tool.
"The mumps caught everybody off guard," Scholten says, "but it also gave us a good indication of what might be expected from the communities and public.: One thing public-health workers stress is the need to wash hands frequently and stay home when you’re sick — things that can be very difficult. Scholten says local schools saw high rates of illness, and some tried to tackle the problem.
One Midwestern school closed, hoping to do an "intervention" and stop the spread of the bug — but then basketball teams came to play on weekends, exposing the kids again. Scholten says the mumps outbreak gave officials a look at how a possible flu pandemic could spread.
"The seasonal flu is bad enough," she says. But in case of a pandemic flu outbreak, she says there may have to be some government regulations involving isolation and quarantine if there’s a high rate of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death). She says we’ll have to think about making sure we have enough supplies in the home so if everyone’s at home sick for some time and can’t get out, there will be enough supplies to get by. Scholten says they see no sign that we’ll have a similar mumps outbreak this year.