Pediatric infectious disease doctor weighs in on mumps outbreak

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With even more cases of the mumps confirmed in Region 8 Friday, one infectious disease doctor is keeping an eye on the outbreak.

The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed four new mumps cases in just 24 hours in Region 8. Three of the cases are linked to Oak Grove Middle School in the Paragould School District. One case came out of the Jonesboro Public Schools system at the Jonesboro Kindergarten Center.

With those new numbers, the ADH is now tracking mumps cases in four Region 8 counties and three school districts.

Just across the river, the Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis is following the outbreak too.

Dr. Sandy Arnold said the disease had to be brought into the community somehow.

"It does not circulate naturally," Dr. Arnold said. "But, because there are people who refuse to vaccinate their children or there are people out there who cannot vaccinate, these diseases can be introduced into a community."

Dr. Arnold said the increasing number of mumps cases in the state shows that you don't have to have a lot of unvaccinated people to have an outbreak.

"So, it is absolutely important to keep kids who are sick at home until they're no longer sick," Dr. Arnold said.

Once a vaccinated child presents symptoms of the mumps, they should be kept home for five days.

Dr. Arnold added that even if you or your child has received the MMR vaccine, you can potentially catch the disease.

"Most of the cases that are occurring in Arkansas, and this has occurred in other outbreaks as well, are occurring among children who have received the requisite number of vaccines, which is two doses of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine after the age of 1," Dr. Arnold said. "The vaccine is not perfect. We get two doses because one dose, on average is about 78% effective. The second dose, you get about 88% of people vaccinated protected. That leaves 12% of people, even if they've had two shots, can be susceptible."

However, Dr. Arnold said if you've been vaccinated, the symptoms are much less severe.

"Just like you'd see with influenza or chicken pox vaccine where the vaccine does have an effect on making the illness milder and preventing complications, which is why, in this setting of an outbreak, it's really important that everyone be vaccinated," she said.

Dr. Arnold said most children receive their first dose of the vaccine after their first birthday, and their second dose before starting school.

"But in an outbreak setting, you will move up that second dose for children who have only received one dose. That's what they've been doing and recommending in the affected areas," Dr. Arnold said.

She added that it's also important for adults, even those born before 1957, to have one dose of the vaccine as well.

If you suspect your child has mumps and you take them to a doctor's office, let the staff know immediately, so your child is not in a general area, where the potential to spread the disease rises.

Though symptoms include swelling of glands under your neck and in your cheeks, they do not necessarily mean you have the mumps. However, Dr. Arnold explained that in an outbreak setting, swelling of the salivary glands should raise concern.

If you believe you or your child has the mumps, the best thing to do is contact the Arkansas Department of Health so they can continue to track the cases throughout the state. There is no treatment for the mumps other than supportive care.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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