The Measles- and Mump-date

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

When we reported the first cases of mumps linked to Ohio State University back in January, we thought they would be limited to the confines of the Columbus campus. After all, it was mumps - a contagious disease most people thought had gone the way of polio thanks to improved health care and vaccinations.

Before long, it was clear the contagious viral illness was making a comeback. In a matter of days, the mumps outbreak was a major news story. Producers clamored to keep viewers posted with daily updates of the latest number of cases, which they cheekily dubbed the "mumpdate."

By late June, Columbus Public Health reported there were more confirmed cases of mumps in Central Ohio (439) in 2014 than in the entire country in 2013 (438).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports "the MMR vaccine is a shot that combines vaccines for three diseases - measles, mumps, and rubella. The mumps vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the mumps virus. Almost all children (9 children out of 10) who get two doses of the MMR vaccine will be protected from mumps."

Studies have shown the MMR vaccine virtually eradicated measles in our country. Yet you've certainly heard of people or even have friends who resist vaccinating their children, having read of the alleged link to autism. I would certainly never dare to tell anyone how to raise their children because I'm not looking for outside advice either, but I believe this recent mumps and subsequent measles outbreak speaks to how vital it is for parents and guardians to make informed and educated choices for their children.

We do know most children infected with mumps recover fully, but the disease can occasionally cause serious, lasting problems. These include meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and deafness. It's also important to know mumps can spread before swollen glands appear and for five days after.

In our coverage of the outbreak, we ran across school districts where leaders were hesitant to release information about the number of students who'd come down with the disease, what school they attended or where they lived. Their reticence made it difficult to keep viewers informed but, more importantly, left many parents wondering whether their children were at risk.

If you follow this column, you know I often take a humorous look at the life of being a parent, particularly a working mom. When it comes to the resurgence of illnesses such as mumps and measles, there is little to laugh about when you consider the danger to our children. Whether you decide to vaccinate your child is not just your business - especially if your child attends school (or child care) with other children. Surely we can learn from this outbreak and agree that information is a great equalizer and safeguard to the health and safety of children.

-Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.