Health officials were surprised last winter by a massive outbreak of mumps that began in Iowa and spread to at least ten states. With winter flu season ahead, public-health nurse Deb Scholten says it’s hard to say if there will be another mumps outbreak this year.
A year ago she would have said not, but clearly we do have to worry about it, since it happened. She says we need to be aware of the symptoms. Scholten says it’s easy to see how the mumps outbreak spread fast and far without the carriers being aware what they were doing. She knows people who were coming down with the mumps and didn’t realize what symptoms they should have been looking for. She says even as they got sick, they were “out and about spreading it to more people.” She says that’s why you should be alert for the signs.
Even among people who thought they’d taken all the right precautions, the mumps hit many who thought they’d be protected. “In Iowa, where it really blossomed and festered,” she chuckles, “and spilled over into surrounding states, a lot of the people there were young adults that had already had their full immunizations, and so I don’t think they have narrowed down why those immunizations were not effective.”
Medical experts say current mumps vaccines available should be effective against the disease, though people may choose to go in and get a booster shot. Scholten says in some cases the victims had gotten just one mumps shot, not the recommended second follow-up shot, but she knows that in some cases the people should have been protected — and for some reason, were not. By May of last year, the Centers for Disease Control reports the mumps outbreak had affected at least ten states, though Iowa had the most cases. At the end of September, the Iowa Department of Public Health had confirmed 1,958 cases of mumps this year.