Lower vaccinations rates likely have contributed to a mumps outbreak, said Clark County health officials as they await lab results on what could be the area’s first confirmed case of the virus.
The woman is one of two possible cases of the virus in the area. The first case was a man in his 50s who is a full-time Ohio State University student. The woman in her 20s has no known ties to Ohio State, where 172 cases of the virus have been linked.
The number of probable and confirmed mumps cases in Ohio has climbed to nearly 290, prompting health officials locally and statewide to urge parents to vaccinate their children and advise students and adults to get fully immunized.
In addition, state and national health officials recently confirmed a measles outbreak in Knox, Richland and Wayne counties, where 21 cases of the disease have been confirmed.
Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said the outbreaks can be blamed on a number of factors, but the unvaccinated population is a primary cause.
“The lack of vaccination help these diseases get a foothold in the community. The first case of the measles is a documented travel case where you have a large population of people who choose not to be vaccinated and that’s why it spreads so quickly,” he said.
Once a disease takes effect in an unvaccinated population, Patterson said it leads to a greater possibility of it spreading to a wider population. That could include other people who haven’t been immunized and people who have been but the shot didn’t full take and are only somewhat protected.
Mumps and measles are contagious viruses that are spread through coughing and sneezing.
The MMR vaccine is key to the prevention of measles, mumps and rubella and high vaccination rates nationwide have made the diseases rare in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.
However, outbreaks still occur and CDC officials say parents who don’t immunize their children put their child and others at risk.
The majority of students in school districts statewide and locally are fully vaccinated, but a small percent are not.
Some students have incomplete vaccination records, while others are exempt due to medical, religious or philosophical reasons.
Schools statewide are required to submit vaccination information for new students to the Ohio Department of Health.
This school year, more than 4,800 Ohio school submitted reports.
In Clark County, 89 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade were fully immunized this school year, according to ODH. Of the more than 3,200 students included in the report, about 0.6 percent received waivers because their parents are against the vaccination for religious or philosophical reasons.
In Champaign County, 96 percent of new students in kindergarten through 12th grade were fully immunized. Of the more than 1,113 students included in the report, about 1.4 percent were exempt due to religious or philosophical reasons, according to the ODH report.
Ashlee Palmer of Springfield stopped immunizing her children after her son had a reaction and was later hospitalized after he received an MMR vaccine. The recent mumps outbreak in Ohio hasn’t changed her opinion about vaccinating her children, ages 5 and 7.
“I’m not concerned at all. We have really good hygiene. We have good boundaries. I really don’t believe that these childhood illnesses can be prevented with these vaccines,” Palmer said.
She noted that the people who have contracted the mumps include people who have been vaccinated.
“I don’t fear any of that. I had more fear when they were getting vaccinated,” Palmer said.
Not all parents agree. Tallon Denney, 18-months-old, received six vaccination shots, including MMR, at the Clark County Combined Health District last week.
Tallon cried as he was getting the shots, but his mother, Sheila, said getting the shots was better than him getting the disease.
The MMR vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective and a small percentage of children get sick after getting the shot, Patterson and other health care officials said.
“It’s a personal choice. In general, I’d say if you give 1,000 kids the MMR shot, some are going to get sick. If you withheld the shot, some of them are going to get sick,” Patterson said.
Melissa Wervy Arnold, executive director of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said immunization rates for MMR fell after a 1998 paper published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues linked the shot to autism. That paper has since been retracted and discredited by the journal that published it.
She said the mumps and measles outbreaks aren’t a coincidence.
Ohio is the only state in the nation that doesn’t require immunizations for children enrolled in childcare centers and preschools.
Although many childcare centers require immunization for enrollment, Ohio Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and other health leaders are advocating for an immunization law. The outbreaks also caused health leaders to seek support from the Ohio Association of Health Commissioners for legislation requiring vaccination for college students.
“It’s a parent’s choice to do that. I’m not trying to interfere with that but it’s causing a risk to other students,” Wervy Arnold said.
The outbreaks have led to more calls and inquires about immunizations, said Wervy Arnold and Susan Bayless, director of nursing at the health district.
“People understand now what we’re fighting. But it shouldn’t take an outbreak to have that happen,” Wervy Arnold said.
Staying with the Story
The Springfield News-Sun digs into important public health stories, including first reporting on possible mumps cases in Clark County last week.