Local health officials are continuing to monitor a statewide mumps outbreak that so far has resulted in 13 suspected cases of the illness in Ellis County. Only two of those individuals have tested positive, said Kerry McCue, Ellis County health services administrator.
Both of those individuals are “well past” the contagious period, he said. When a positive mumps case is identified, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment requires a five-day quarantine.
Residents are encouraged to make sure they are vaccinated and might have the option of a “booster shot” as a precaution. There is not yet a recommended time when someone should get a booster, but that could change if the outbreak continues, McCue said.
“I would assume that with the number of cases that have spread out across the nation, I imagine we’ll all be recommended from the CDC to eventually get our third one,” he said. “There is not a specific time frame.”
There have been at least 79 confirmed mumps cases statewide, according to the most recent data available from KDHE.
The vaccine is not 100-percent effective, but those who get it are considered nine times less likely to acquire the virus, he said.
“And if they do get it, it won’t be as severe,” McCue said.
There are some exceptions: People who were born before 1957 are considered immune, as they likely already had the virus.
Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine typically are recommended for children, one dose at between 12 and 15 months, and another between 4 and 6 years of age. Young children are not considered fully vaccinated until they receive the second dose, but they do have some protection, said Kimberly Koerner, infection prevention officer at Hays Medical Center.
“That’s why we encourage anybody who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated, because they do help increase the coverage for everybody else in the community,” Koerner said. “If we have a community that does practice preventative care by getting a vaccine, that helps cover those that aren’t fully vaccinated or can’t be fully vaccinated.”
Vaccines are available at the Ellis County Health Department or through primary care physician clinics.
Though the exact source of the outbreak isn’t yet clear, KDHE has linked possible exposure to wrestling and basketball events, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, and travel to other states, according to the agency’s website.
The most telling symptom is often pain and swelling in the glands below the jaw line. Other — and often earlier — symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue, Koerner said. The virus has a lengthy incubation period, with symptoms typically showing 12 to 25 days after exposure.
If anyone suspects they might have the virus, they are encouraged to seek prompt medical attention. Patients, however, should call ahead to notify the medical clinic of their condition so steps can be taken to avoid exposing others, Koerner said.
In otherwise healthy patients, the illness doesn’t usually lead to severe complications, she said.
“It actually used to be very common,” she said. “It’s become highly uncommon since more people are being vaccinated.”
Other preventive measures include practicing good personal hygiene and frequent handwashing. The airborne virus is carried through coughing, sneezing, talking or sharing eating utensils with others.
“The No. 1 way to stop the spread of germs is covering your cough and washing your hands,” Koerner said. “We always ask people to do that, all the time. And avoid close contact with people when they’re sick.”