Mumps Outbreak at Otis School

Since vaccination for mumps began in the late 1960s there are fewer than 20,000 annual cases in the U.S. every year.

However, that did not stop a third grader from the Otis Elementary School from becoming infected with the disease that has been all but eradicated in the country.

Parents at the Otis received an automated phone call from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Friday alerting them to the student who tested positive test for mumps.

The school also sent a letter home to parents.

“We do not believe the student has come into close contact with any students in our school who are not vaccinated,” read the letter. “It’s important to note that the mumps can only be transmitted from one person to another through close contact. “At the Otis School, nearly all of our students have provided documentation of their vaccinations. However, a very small number of students have only provided partial documentation of vaccinations, or have not provided any records. We are contacting these families to assist them. If you are unsure if your child has had the appropriate vaccinations, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.”

All BPS students are required to receive and show proof of the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccination before they are allowed to attend school. However, each year some new arrival students are given a grace period to get the MMR shot and show proof.

According to the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) mumps is a contagious illness that is caused by a virus. The disease can spread through the air to persons close by when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Mumps can also be spread by contact with infected secretions. Persons are most contagious two days before symptoms begin until five days after onset of disease.

Symptoms can appear 12 to 25 days after contact with an infected person with the tell-tale sign being the swelling in the salivary glands, as well as fever, headache and muscle pain.

The BPHC says vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In the 1950’s, nearly every child developed measles, and unfortunately, some even died. Today, thanks to the MMR vaccine, many healthcare providers have never seen a case of the measles.

Vaccines can protect children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old.

The BPHC says it’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past but the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases.

“As a pediatrician myself, I speak with many parents about vaccinations. There is no debate regarding the fact that vaccines prevent severe disease and death from infections, many of which are still common throughout the world. I tell parents that taking steps to ensure that they themselves and all individuals in the household are vaccinated is crucial to creating an environment where every child is safe from preventable diseases,” said Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau and Director of Population Health at the BPHC.

The BPHC provides fact sheets on many diseases for which children can be vaccinated in multiple languages, including Chinese, Haitian Creole, Spanish and others.

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