WHEELING - With an outbreak of the mumps occurring in the Columbus, Ohio, area, local parents may be wondering what they need to do to keep their own children healthy.
Pediatrician Dr. Judy Romano, director of Wheeling Hospital's Center for Pediatrics, said about 150 cases of mumps have been reported in counties surrounding Columbus, where the outbreak began at Ohio State University. As of Friday. the number of cases have increased to 339, according to the Columbus Public Health Department.
A Belmont County resident who was suspected of contracting the mumps while in Columbus, Ohio, has since recovered, according to the Belmont County Health Department. The woman had been receiving an unrelated medical treatment at Ohio State University Hospital when her glands became swollen. Because of the mumps outbreak in that area, her doctors assumed that was what she contracted and had to notify the health department.
Izzy Reed, 5, receives her latest round of childhood vaccines from Dr. Mary Hammond at Wheeling Hospital as her mother Emily Stephen of Barnesville holds her hand.
Romano said the best defense a parent can have for their child is to make sure all of the child's vaccinations are up to date including the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR.
"It is something to be concerned about it and what it tells us is we're starting to see the results of vaccine hesitancy," Romano said. "We need to educate the parents about why it's important to vaccinate children."
Though a study claiming there was a connection between vaccines and autism was debunked several years ago, people continue to have concerns about the safety of vaccines. Because of this some parents have not been getting their children vaccinated against diseases such as the mumps, resulting in an uptick in the number of outbreaks across the country.
Loss of appetite
Swollen, tender salivary glands under ears
"We feel, pediatricians feel, if parents meet the recommended vaccine schedule and on time, we're going to see a decrease in these diseases again," Romano said.
Ohio is among 48 states that allow exemptions from requirements that children be vaccinated. The exemptions can be for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. West Virginia and Mississippi currently are the only states that require such immunizations except for medical reasons. Some states, such as California, are starting to review their requirements after outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis, have popped up recently.
"In Columbus, there was one person who had it and boom," Romano said of the mumps outbreak.
While no one has died during this mumps outbreak, people can suffer complications. For example, men can become sterile and people can develop pneumonia, diarrhea or ear infections.
"Children cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 1 year old. If you have a child less than a year old, you depend on herd immunity to protect those children," she said.
Romano said, to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed its recommendations as to who should receive the vaccination. She noted the vaccines in existence today were developed to save people's lives. Cases of many diseases are so uncommon today that many new doctors have never even seen them in their practices.
"People don't realize vaccines were developed for these diseases because there was a high risk of morbidity," Romano said. "At the end of the day, vaccines are safe and prevent millions of illnesses. ... It's inconceivable that we're seeing a resurgence. It's sad."
Romano added a measles outbreak also has occurred in the state of Ohio from someone who traveled to the Philippines where an outbreak is underway.