The number of cases in the outbreak of mumps that first surfaced in the OSU area has risen to 63 across Franklin County.
In a typical year Columbus Public Health officials report one or two cases at most. 40 of the reported cases are OSU students and staffers. Health officials urging anyone who has not already been vaccinated, get the 2-shot series of vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella known as MMR. Public Health Spokesperson Jose Rodriguez tells Alison Holm the outbreak is unpredictable.
Rodriguez: Something that we know about mumps is that it's highly contagious or highly infectious. So it's really not surprising that it would spread as fast as it has. It also has other challenges; one third of the individuals don't know that they have the mumps, so they can actually be infectious and don't even know it. So that also complicates the investigation and it helps the cases fast.
WCBE: The Public Health Department is recommending that those who are not already vaccinated get the 2-shot series. Has the percentage of the vaccinated population changed?
Rodriguez: No, even if you look at the outbreak, it's a highly vaccinated population. But what we want to make sure is that if there are folks out there who have not had their two shots, and they need it, they should right away. If you were born prior to 1958, you were likely exposed to the mumps so you may be protected. But most folks really need the 2-shots of MMR vaccine. And if you haven't had your second shot, you really need to complete the series and get protected.
WCBE: And even having been exposed to mumps does not necessarily give you immunity.
Rodriguez: Absolutely. you really should consult with your private provider and see if you can get protected immediately.
WCBE: Are you hearing anything from area doctors, are the number of people coming forward and getting these shots increasing?
Rodriguez: Yes, I think... We just did this call to action, and we communicated with physicians. We have also have kept them abreast in the last few weeks as this was developing. And we're asking them to test people, and I think that is one of the reason we are seeing more cases, because the physician community is working very well and helping us to identify those cases.
WCBE: Is the measles-mumps-rubella shot one of those live virus vaccines?
Rodriguez: It is a live virus vaccine, so it does have some contra- indications. For example you may not be able to get it if you are pregnant or if you have compromised immune system. That's why it's so important to check with your provider, or your local health department, your employer if they offer it - you need to check with folks to make sure that you can qualify for the vaccine.
WCBE: In recent years we've heard more about outbreaks of communicable diseases on college campuses. Is this because of increased exposure, decreased protection, or simply better, more comprehensive reporting?
Rodriguez: You know that's a great question. And actually some of the challenges we've seen on university campuses have to do with the density of the population; the fact that they live and work and go to school in very close quarters. Sometimes infectious control is not as easy. They may be sharing utensils, and doing things that folks at home may not do. So it creates a kind of an environment that is perfect for highly infectious disease such as the mumps. The mumps is highly contagious; you can spread it the way you spread a cold or the flu, through respiratory droplets. So it is easy to catch and easy to give.
In 2006 over 65-hundred people contracted mumps in an outbreak concentrated largely on Midwestern college campuses, and a smaller nationwide wave struck in 2010. Symptoms typically include fever, headaches, fatigue and a loss of appetite, and individuals can be contagious for up to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although quarantine is recommended there is no specific treatment other than to relieve symptoms, and patients usually recover after a week or so. Occasionally the disease can produce serious complications such as encephalitis, meningitis, or inflammation in breasts, ovaries or testes.