Fifty years ago, mumps was a childhood rite of passage that included a few days of puffy cheeks and swollen jaws. That all changed with the discovery of a vaccine in the late 1960s, and mumps was nearly eradicated.
But now the U.S. is experiencing one of the largest surges in mumps in decades.
Since January, at least 1,000 cases of mumps have been reported in more than 37 states, according to the Centers of Disease and Control Prevention (CDC). Most of the outbreaks have affected college campuses such as Penn State and Louisiana State University.
A CDC spokesperson said that while it is investigating many potential factors contributing to the increase of reported cases, it is looking into the possibility that the “protective effect of the vaccine decreases over time.”
“[The vaccine] is excellent for the short term, but after 10 to 15 years, it begins to wane in some people,” said William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “It doesn’t go away completely, but just allows them to get mumps … if they are in a particular circumstance.”
The total number of reported cases has only topped 1,000 in six of the past 17 years. The record for that time period was in 2006, when over 6,500 cases were reported, mostly affecting college students living on campuses in the Midwest, according to the CDC. Last year was the second highest in the post-vaccine era, with more than 5,311 mumps cases reported in 2016.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection of the salivary glands that most commonly affects children. The most obvious symptom is swelling of one or both of the salivary glands on the sides of the face.
The mumps vaccine is part of routine childhood shots. U.S. health officials recommend that by age 6, all children get two doses of a combination vaccine against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR).
The vaccine is highly effective when children get the shots on schedule, and there has not been any new, mutated mumps strain going around to change that. However, most of the victims who got sick in the recent outbreak were fully vaccinated, according to health officials.
No vaccine works perfectly and it’s expected that some people who get the shots will still get mumps. Also, some research suggests that about a decade after the second dose, immunity may fade enough to allow new infections. During certain outbreaks, like one currently at the University of Missouri, students and faculty have been offered a third booster dose to increase protection and eliminate the outbreak.
Source: FOX Business