Mumps outbreak 2014 puts Illinois health officials on alert

April 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Public health officials say there have been three mumps cases in the Chicago since the first of the year. Six more cases have been reported in the suburbs, those numbers not unusual. But to the north and south of our area, mumps has made a comeback.

The symptoms include swelling of the glands, headache and fever, rash and muscle aches.

Since a vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, the number of annual mumps cases has been minimal. But this year, cases in Illinois are on the rise.

"It's on our radar screen. We are working with local health departments to get to the bottom of it, to find out what's causing this particular outbreak," said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director, Illinois Department of Public Health.

Since the year began, there have been at least 65 mumps cases reported in Illinois, nearly double what the state usually sees in an entire year. Most of those cases stem from two large outbreaks downstate in Morgan and Sangamon counties. Most of the patients are young-to-middle-age adults.

"The total cases we have are unusual for us. The last three years, we've only had one case a year," said Jim Stone, Sangamon County Public Health Director.

"We need to know their vaccination histories, and then we need to know what's been that common source of clustering. What's the case source? Who's the initial person who had the mumps and spread it to others?" said Dr. Hasbrouck.

It's not just in Illinois. Since January, large mumps outbreaks have been reported in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. The Buckeye State has recorded more than 260 cases, many involving college students who've said they were previously vaccinated.

"It's possible that many of these people who are getting sick right now weren't completely vaccinated, and in order to be completely protected, people need to have two doses of the mumps vaccine," said Dr. Julie Morita, Chicago Department of Public Health.

Though the Chicago area has not seen a high number of cases, health officials say it's wise to get vaccinated.

"The message is always be concerned that if you're not vaccinated and your vaccinations are not up to speed, you are vulnerable," said Dr. Hasbrouck.

Mumps is spread through close contact, and patients are often infected and contagious even before showing symptoms. Health officials urge thorough hand washing in addition to getting vaccinated.

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