U.S. pledges vaccine to Iowa for mumps

Worst U.S. outbreak in 20 years could affect up to 15 states

April 20, 2006|By JIA-RUI CHONG | JIA-RUI CHONG,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Federal health authorities said yesterday that they are rushing 25,000 doses of mumps vaccine to the Midwest in an effort to control the largest mumps outbreak in 20 years.

Since the first cases were detected in Iowa in December, mumps has infected 1,165 people in at least eight Midwestern states, said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're not going to be surprised to see more cases in more states," she said at a new conference in Atlanta.

Officials are still collecting data from the other states, but many of the people in Iowa who have contracted mumps were between 17 and 24 years of age.

The relative youth of those infected could explain why there have been no deaths so far, Gerberding said. Still, 20 people have been hospitalized for more serious conditions that developed from their mumps infection, including meningitis.

Gerberding said a crash program has begun in the affected areas to vaccinate vulnerable populations, particularly college-age students and health care workers.

Mumps is a virus that can be spread by close contact through mucus or coughs and sneezes.

The disease generally causes fever, headaches and tiredness, with a special tendency to puff up the saliva glands. Most people get over mumps in about 10 days.

About 20 percent of people who catch mumps can have no symptoms.

Mumps usually affects about 265 people a year in the United States.

Since a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella became available in 1967, nearly everyone has gotten the shot.

Jane Seward, acting deputy director of the CDC's division of viral diseases, said the latest outbreak might have been sparked by someone coming from overseas.

Health officials said the mumps strain is the same as one circulating in the United Kingdom, which has seen 100,000 cases since 2004.

Seward said the disease seems to have landed in a pocket of vulnerable people. A significant number of college-age students in Iowa did not get a second dose of vaccine because they entered school before the requirement for a second dose took effect in the early 1990s.

Iowa also does not require students entering college to have a second dose of the vaccine.

The federal government now recommends the vaccine at 12 to 15 months and 4 to 6 years of age.

There is no evidence of the immunity conferred by the vaccine diminishes with age, but the vaccine still fails to protect 10 percent of the people who receive the recommended two doses, Gerberding said.

She said the crowded conditions in dorm has made colleges a prime breeding ground for the disease.

Iowa has seen the bulk of the cases, but 350 cases have been reported in Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma. Gerberding said her agency was investigating possible cases in seven other states, but declined to specify which.

Iowa and Wisconsin officials were seeing cases more often in universities than elementary schools. However, Iowa's Waterloo public school district reported 10 cases of mumps - seven students and three adults.

Jia-Rui Chong writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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