Northland News

Mumps outbreak tops 300 reported cases

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Columbus hit an unfortunate milestone last week: More than 300 cases of mumps were reported in an ongoing outbreak affecting Franklin and Delaware counties.

And it's unclear, now that Ohio State University's spring semester has concluded, if those numbers will decline, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health.

"We don't know. Some OSU students go away to their homes," Rodriguez said.

"Some go to jobs somewhere else. Some stay here for the summer. It's unclear what is happening at this point."

As of May 2, there were 309 cases, with 183 linked to OSU.

Rodriguez said about 75 percent of OSU's student population is from Ohio, so Columbus Public Health officials are informing local health agencies to be on the lookout for the potential for new infections in their jurisdictions.

The mumps vaccine is available for free at Columbus Public Health, 240 Parsons Ave.

As of May 1, the agency had vaccinated 217 people -- about five to 10 a day -- "not as many as we would have liked," Rodriguez said.

"We are concerned over the fact that people are not coming in as we had expected to protect themselves," he said.

The vaccine contains a live virus and shouldn't be given to people with compromised immune systems, including those with cancer or HIV, or to those who are being treated with steroids, health officials said.

It's also not recommended for women who are looking to become pregnant in the next few months and for those who are breast-feeding.

People don't seem to think mumps is an urgent medical issue, Rodriguez said.

Yet, so far, Columbus Public Health has reported 11 cases of orchitis, or swollen testicles; two cases of oophoritis, or swollen ovaries; one case of deafness; and eight hospitalizations.

"It is complicated because this is a disease that is highly contagious and has a long incubation period," the time between the exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms, Rodriguez said.

"So both of those factors further complicate efforts to curb the outbreak," he said.

Central Ohio still leads the nation in the mumps outbreak.

As of April 19, there were 393 cases in the nation, 244 of which were local, Rodriguez said. Central Ohio generally sees one case of mumps per year.

Now there's a new threat: Measles has sickened more than 20 people locally.

"It is the second vaccine-preventable disease we are seeing in our region," Rodriguez said.

The same vaccine -- known as MMR, or mumps, measles, rubella -- prevents all three illnesses, he said. Anyone who has not gotten a second MMR shot should consider getting one, he said.

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