Health officials urge vaccination after mumps outbreak

BALTIMORE — Though generally considered a disease of the past, it turns out that cases of mumps are actually on the rise. CBS Baltimore reports an outbreak is spreading in Delaware, where health officials are investigating 11 cases of the mumps. The illnesses may possibly be linked to two separate dance festivals that were held at the same venue.

Researchers have determined that it’s possible to catch the virus even if you’ve been vaccinated for the mumps, because the protection can wane over time. 

Vera Thomas-Platten was diagnosed with mumps, but she was spared the fever, aches, pains and puffy cheeks that the virus is best known for. Her mother had mumps while she was pregnant, making her immune. But her sister hasn’t been as lucky. 

“It’s a lousy disease if you get it, very uncomfortable,” said Thomas-Platten. 

Most children get two doses of the MMR vaccine (which protects against measles, mumps and rubella) by the time they are 6 years old. However, there have been recent outbreaks of the virus among young adults who were vaccinated. 

“It can spread very easily and runs through communities of unvaccinated people, and it can affect vaccinated people as well,” Sinai Hospital emergency room Dr. Neil Roy said.

The mumps vaccine, which is the focus of a recent study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, finds immunity after vaccination lasts an average of 27 years, but a quarter of people lose protection after eight years.

Mumps can spread through coughing, sneezing or by sharing infected items. Doctors say you should still get vaccinated, especially in areas that experience outbreaks.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, the severity of your illness is nowhere near as bad,” Roy said.

Studies are being conducted to see if a booster shot at adulthood could help prevent outbreaks.

Some people aren’t waiting to find out.

“The effectiveness of any vaccine begins to wear off as you age and your immune systems changes, and you definitely need to get boosters — that’s important,” one Baltimore resident said. 

So far, there have been no reported cases of the mumps in Maryland.

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