Measles and Mumps Outbreaks Reported in Some States; MMR vaccinations Urged
NASHVILLE – Recent outbreaks of measles and mumps in several states are prompting health officials to issue reminders about the importance of Measles-Mumps-Rubella, or MMR, vaccinations. While some may think of measles and mumps as diseases of the past, the viruses are still common in much of the world, including Western Europe. Both are very contagious and can infect anyone who has not had measles or mumps and has not been properly vaccinated.
“We urge everyone to be vaccinated for measles and mumps, especially those traveling abroad, not just to protect themselves, but to protect all people they may come in contact with when they return,” said Kelly Moore, MD, MPH, director of the Tennessee Immunization Program. “While many people assume they have been properly immunized, some may not have the adequate protection needed.”
Almost everyone born before 1957 had these diseases in childhood. Those born more recently who are unsure should discuss vaccinations with their health care provider, who may suggest at least one dose before traveling abroad. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended for the best protection, and middle-aged adults might have had only one because the second dose was first recommended in 1989.
Parents traveling internationally with infants that are at least six months old should be sure the infant gets a dose of the MMR vaccine before traveling. If the infant is between six and 12 months of age, he or she will still have to get their usual two doses later, but the early dose will help protect the infant. Infants younger than six months cannot be vaccinated, and the Tennessee Department of Health recommends they should not be taken on international trips into risk areas.
In addition to measles, the MMR vaccine also provides protection against the mumps virus, another infection of childhood that is rare in the United States but common overseas. Outbreaks of mumps are currently known among students in multiple colleges in Virginia and Maryland, highlighting the fact that, once introduced, this virus also readily spreads among susceptible people.
Some parents may have lingering concerns about the MMR vaccine because of old allegations that the vaccine might be associated with the development of autism. These claims have repeatedly been disproven by medical research over the last decade; there is no evidence of any connection between MMR vaccine and autism-related conditions. On the other hand, children who do not receive or delay MMR vaccine can develop serious illness if they come in contact with a sick person; they also can spread measles or mumps to children or adults with weak immune systems, or vulnerable infants who are too young to be protected by vaccine.
MMR vaccines are required in Tennessee for children attending daycare, all school children and college students, and two doses have been required since 1990. Children routinely get the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose before Kindergarten.
Symptoms of measles typically include high fever, cough and runny nose for up to three or four days before red eyes develop and a red rash starts on the head and chest. If a patient develops symptoms like measles, he or she should call ahead to their doctor’s office or ER so the staff can put them directly in a room away from other patients. Because the virus easily spreads in the air to others, this step is very important to protect other patients from exposure. Unfortunately, measles can cause death in some patients.
Symptoms of mumps include low-grade fever, muscle aches, headaches, feeling weak or tired, losing appetite and most typically, swelling of cheeks due to inflammation of salivary glands near the jawline. Complications may occur and are more prevalent in those who have reached puberty. Complications may include inflammation of the testicles, brain, the covering of the brain and spinal cord, ovaries or breasts. Temporary or permanent deafness may occur.
Vaccines and immunization services are available through all county health departments in Tennessee and at more than 1,500 physicians’ offices across the state. Doctors enrolled in the federal Vaccines for Children program may give free, federally-funded vaccine to eligible children from birth through 18 years of age.
For additional information about measles, please visit www.medicinenet.com/measles_rubeola/article.htm.
For additional information about mumps, go to www.cdc.gov/mumps/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.