Archive for Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mumps makes its way to Baldwin

April 13, 2006

As Kansas' mumps outbreak continues to grow, the first reported case in Baldwin is announced at Baker University and Iowa's outbreak reaches 400, health officials are scrambling to get the word out, including the facts on who can and can't get it.

That's because it's not a hard disease to avoid. Simple hygiene and keeping the immune system strong are the best defense, according to Sheryl Tirol-Goodwin, communications director for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. Still, the mumps cases continue to swell.

"That state has a total of 48 today (Tuesday), Douglas County has 37 and there are other cases in Geary, Johnson, Leavenworth, Norton, Shawnee and Saline," said Tirol-Goodwin. "It's become widespread. Most cases are in college kids, ages 19 to 26."

Such is the case in Baldwin, where a female student at Baker was identified Friday as possibly having the mumps. As of yet, the case isn't confirmed, but precautions were taken and the student went home to the Kansas City area.

"As of Tuesday afternoon, Baker University had a report of one suspected case of mumps on the Baldwin City campus," said Baker Spokesman Steve Rottinghaus. "The female student went home Friday to the Kansas City area for a four-day isolation period. I do not when the student planned to return to Baldwin City. E-mails on this topic were sent to students, faculty and staff. Any student, faculty or staff member experiencing mumps symptoms were urged to contact the health center at 594-8409."

Most of the Douglas County cases have been reported in Kansas University students. Tirol-Goodwin said she'd had no other cases reported from Baldwin and hopes it stays that way.

"I haven't heard anything else on that. That's the last I had heard," she said of the lone Baker case. "Hopefully, we don't get something going on over there like we have at KU."

It is unknown if the Baker student had contact with KU students, Rottinghaus said.

"I am unaware if the Baker student had connections to the KU students suspected of having mumps," he said.

And, so far, no cases have been reported in the Baldwin School District, according to school nurses Kathy Kivett and Carrie Enick. There has been one reported case in the Lawrence School District, said Tirol-Goodwin.

She also said that her office and the state has gone away from differentiating between confirmed and non-confirmed cases because there are so many. The numbers of cases change almost hourly.

"They are changing because we are getting confirmed cases back," said Tirol-Goodwin. "We are not separating them anymore. With the numbers changing rapidly every day, we aren't doing that anymore."

She said that college students are most vulnerable because of living in cramped quarters and not taking care of proper hygiene.

"Because mumps is viral and is spread so easily, that population is most vulnerable," she said, adding that keeping immune systems healthy with proper diet and sleep, keeping up with personal hygiene such as washing hands and using tissues to cover mouths when coughing and sneezing is the best defense. "Definitely. That's what we're saying. Keep your immune system healthy."

As for what's caused the latest outbreak, she said officials aren't sure yet. But, it's the same old mumps, nothing new. That's even despite some people getting the mumps that received inoculations when young.

"It's not a mutated strain," Tirol-Goodwin said of the mumps going around. "It's the same strain that's going on in Iowa. Possibly, the immunity is waning in this age group or maybe it's the 5 percent. The inoculation is only good in 95 percent of the people who get it. They haven't figured out what happened yet."

As for the "old wives tale" that once you've had the mumps, you can't get them again, that's not true, she said.

"That was the theory," she said. "If you'd had mumps, you couldn't get it. They have found that may not be true. We have not heard of anyone in that age group having them."

That isn't the only change with the disease. It had first been reported that people with mumps should be quarantined for nine days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent new information saying only a four-day isolation period is necessary after onset of disease. People may still feel sick, but won't be contagious.

Anyone experiencing swollen jaws for more than two days for unknown reasons are encouraged to see their health care provider, she said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.