The Ohio Department of Health continues to encourage Ohioans to get inoculated with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) in light of the continued spread of mumps through the state and several new suspected cases of measles in Knox County.
As of Thursday afternoon, ODH and Columbus Public Health were reporting 278 reported mumps cases in Ohio – now in 12 counties. Of the 29 cases noted in Delaware, two cases are linked to the outbreak that began at The Ohio State University in January; 27 cases are considered part of the community-wide outbreak declared by ODH on April 2.
Franklin County continues to be the hardest hit by the mumps with 232 cases, 150 of which have been linked the OSU outbreak occurring in students, staff, families and others directly in contact with the OSU infection. More than 200 of the cases in both the OSU-linked outbreak and the community-linked outbreak have been in Columbus.
Mumps is a viral illness transmitted through close contact, including sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses.
Measles (rubeolla) is a highly contagious respiratory virus spread through cough. Symptoms usually appear between seven and 18 days after exposure, but the virus can be transmitted as early as four days prior to the onset of rash to four days after the onset of rash.
Those who have not been immunized have a high likelihood of catching measles if exposed, according to the CDC. The measles vaccine is also part of the MMR.
The possible measles cases in Knox County have been identified in unvaccinated travelers who recently to Ohio returned from the Philippines.
As of April 18, the CDC was tracking 13 outbreaks of measles since Jan. 1 in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington – accounting for 129 cases.
With 58 cases, the outbreak in California is now considered the largest outbreak in the country in the last several years. Orange County has been most affected; as of April 17, 22 confirmed cases of measles have been reported to the Orange County Public Health, with other cases appearing around the state.
The cases have been seen mostly in children who had not received the MMR vaccine, though several cases were in healthcare workers who had cared for the initial cases. One case occurred in a person who had recently been traveling overseas.
The CDC declared the measles as eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, meaning though cases may still occur occasionally, cases are not native to the U.S. and are brought in from an area where measles is still more common. In 2004, the CDC recorded a low of 37 cases nationally. In 2011, the number rose to 220 cases. According to the CDC, the increase is likely due to unvaccinated travelers contracting measles and bringing it back to the U.S. In many cases, the CDC said the cases seen since 2000 have been among pockets of unvaccinated people or communities.
“Immunization is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said ODH Interim Director Lance Himes. “When fully vaccinated … (MMR) vaccine is 99 percent effective in preventing the measles.”
Although MMR is generally given in a two-dose inoculation in early childhood – the first dose between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age – the vaccine can be given at any age and a booster can be given to adults. The CDC recommends students attending post-secondary school and healthcare workers receive a booster.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link, so whenever we have a potential individual unvaccinated, any of us can be at risk,” said CPH Medical Director Dr. Mysheika Williams Roberts.
In addition to Delaware and Franklin counties, Marion, Union, Fairfield, Pickaway and Licking counties have identified mumps cases part of the community-wide outbreak; Athens, Belmont, Clark, Fairfield, Hamilton, Licking, Madison and Pickaway counties are all noting cases related to the OSU outbreak in addition to those cases in Delaware and Franklin counties.
For more information on vaccination availability or if symptoms occur, residents are encouraged to contact the Delaware General Health District, at 740-368-1700, or their primary care provider.