Olentangy Valley News

Mumps outbreak

Delaware County officials track seven suspected cases


Although no cases have been confirmed, health officials fear a mumps outbreak linked to Ohio State University has spread north into Delaware County.

As of Monday, March 31, the Delaware General Health District was investigating seven suspected cases of mumps in the county, including three involving Olentangy Local Schools students. Last week, the district first announced the possible presence of three cases of mumps in the county.

Traci Whittaker, spokeswoman for the district, said the agency is waiting on test results for the suspected mumps patients to be finalized.

"All of the signs and symptoms are there, but the lab work hasn't come back," she said.

Whittaker said considering the number of Delaware County residents who work or attend school in Franklin County, it would not be surprising if the virus had spread to Delaware County.

On Thursday, March 27, Olentangy schools announced two of the suspected cases involved district students -- one each from Olentangy High School in Lewis Center and Scioto Ridge Elementary School in Liberty Township.

A third suspected case was announced Friday, March 28, at Olentangy Liberty High School in Liberty Township.

Nurses at those buildings have contacted families of students who have not been vaccinated or who have compromised immune systems.

The mumps outbreak, believed to have originated at Ohio State, has grown to 111 cases of the illness in Ohio, according to Franklin County Public Health. The majority, but not all, of the patients have ties to the university.

In addition to Franklin, mumps cases also have been confirmed in Fairfield, Hamilton, Licking and Union counties.

Mumps is a viral disease spread through infected saliva or mucus. Symptoms of mumps include swelling of the salivary glands, fever, headaches and pain while chewing or swallowing.

State health officials believe the disease often goes underreported because patients do not have noticeable swelling of the salivary glands.

Most people born after 1957 received two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is largely effective in preventing the disease during childhood. People born before 1957 most likely had the disease at one time and now are considered immune.

Whittaker said the health district recommends anyone who did not receive two doses of the vaccine to make an appointment to get vaccinated. However, she said even people who are vaccinated can still contract the mumps.

"It's just like the flu," she said. "If you get the flu shot, you still can get the flu, but the likelihood is greatly reduced."

The district also encourages residents to fight the spread of the disease by:

• washing hands frequently;

• covering coughs and sneezes;

• staying home when ill; and

• not sharing cups or utensils.