Mumps Outbreak Underscores Need For Vaccinations

Sunday, April 23, 2006 | 07:00pm

April 22-29 Is National Infant Immunization Week

 Nashville, April 24, 2006

A large, ongoing outbreak of mumps in the Midwestern United States serves as a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring complete immunization of all Tennessee infants, children and others at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. During National Infant Immunization Week, April 22-29, and always, the Tennessee Department of Health urges everyone to make sure children are fully vaccinated against mumps by making sure they have received the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine if they are at least one year of age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a growing outbreak of mumps, with over 1,100 cases identified in eight states. Currently, no outbreak-associated cases have been identified in Tennessee. 

The best protection against mumps is MMR vaccine. Many of the cases associated with this outbreak in other states have been in individuals who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. Cases have also occurred in fully vaccinated people, although 90 to 95 percent of people are fully protected after proper immunization.

“Two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against mumps, are required for school-aged children and for all full-time college students in Tennessee,” said Kelly Moore, M.D., MPH, medical director of the State Immunization Program. “Children should get their first MMR after their first birthday and a second dose before starting kindergarten, between the ages of 4 and 6. If your child has not been fully vaccinated or you do not know their vaccination status, contact your physician.”

The vaccine is not generally recommended for persons born before 1957, because they are assumed to be immune because of exposure to natural disease in childhood. Most adults born in 1957 or later were vaccinated as children or had natural disease. A single dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for an adult only if they were never immunized or infected as a child. It is important that all healthcare workers, like students, ensure that they have received two doses of the MMR vaccine or have other proof of immunity because of their risk of exposure to the disease in healthcare settings.

Fortunately, most people are not familiar with mumps because vaccination has largely eliminated frequent outbreaks in our country. Mumps, a viral disease, generally affects the body with fever, headache and tiredness, with a particular tendency to cause inflammation in the salivary glands that causes characteristic swelling of the face. While it is usually not a fatal disease, a small number of infected people may develop meningitis, inflammation of the testes, deafness or other complications. People who develop illness with fever and salivary-gland swelling are encouraged to seek immediate medical care.

While outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are unfortunate, they serve as a reminder of the importance of vaccination in protecting the health of our children and communities. Many diseases that terrified past generations, including polio, measles and diphtheria, are almost unheard of in the U.S. today. The availability of safe, effective vaccines is one of the greatest triumphs of public health, and has saved many thousands of lives.

For more information about immunizations, please visit the Department of Health’s Web site at

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