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Summer could slow down the mumps

By Kelley Weiss

Kansas City, MO – Many of the mumps cases in Kansas are in Douglas County and the University of Kansas has reported more than 150 cases. Centers for Disease Control representatives have been in Lawrence studying the campus outbreak and are anticipating how the summer break will impact the spread of the virus. KCUR's Kelley Weiss reports.

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With more than 3,000 mumps cases in eight states, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments are trying to understand why the outbreak continues to spread. CDC representatives left Kansas on Friday after spending two weeks investigating the states more than 500 cases. They spent time at the University of Kansas where more than 150 students have come down with the mumps. The CDC's lead investigator on the mumps outbreak is Dr. Jane Seward. She says the communal living on college campuses and many students not having the recommended two shots of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has contributed to the outbreak. But, with campuses shutting down for summer college students will be going home and this could change the course of the outbreak.

Seward: "So students going home may well help diffuse the outbreak because there won't be as high contact rates. Perhaps even parents might keep their children home who are sick with mumps instead of those kids going to classes and trying to do their finals and everything else they've been trying to do while they're sick potentially."

The mumps thrive in the spring, she says, and warmer summer temperatures also could slow down the spread of the virus. Health officials suspect other states have not had mumps outbreaks because large numbers of mainly Midwestern college students have not transmitted the virus across the country. Seward says without the MMR vaccine the outbreak would be much worse.

Seward: "We would expect that if we didn't have the high vaccine coverage we have in our communities, and especially in our school children, but also good coverage with at least one dose on college campuses that we would of expected thousands more cases of mumps."

Carol Seager, director of KU's Student Health Services, says treating students with the contagious virus has helped them prepare for the future better.

Seager: "We learn something from everyone of these experiences, clearly. There's always new information out there and when you have these types of unique situations you always come away with new knowledge and that's sure going to help us down the road."

Seward says the summer break and warm weather won't completely eliminate the virus from spreading. She says people still need to practice good hygiene to prevent transmission, stay home when sick with the mumps and most importantly make sure you've had both doses of the vaccine.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.


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