A student at the Elizabethtown Area School District’s Bear Creek School might have the mumps, the school district informed parents.
The school district sent a letter to parents on Friday, Feb. 9, informing them of the possible case of the mumps and urging parents to report any possible symptoms in their own children to the school district. No other possible cases had been reported as of Monday, Feb. 12, school district spokesman Troy Portser said.
Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said cases of the mumps are required to be reported to the state. In most years, the state gets reports of 10 or fewer probable and confirmed cases of mumps. However, periodically there are outbreaks that raise numbers into the dozens, which Wardle said haappened in 2006, 2010 and 2017.
Most mumps reports end up being confirmed as mumps, Wardle said. However, some signs of mumps, such as jaw and cheek swelling, can have other causes, including occasionally the flu, Wardle said.
Eileen Wagener, a registered nurse who is the college health liaison at Elizabethtown College, said parents whose children got the recommended vaccines have done all they can. She said the vaccine is not completely effective, but people who have been vaccinated are nine times less likely to get the mumps than those who have not.
“It doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” Wagener said.
Also, people who have been vaccinated tend to have less severe cases of the mumps when they do get the illness, Wagener said.
Parents whose children did not get vaccinated because a doctor said there was a medical reason not to should check with doctors again, Wagener said; the doctor might say the benefits of the vaccine now outweigh the risk with a possible case being reported in a local school.
Also, people who did not get their children vaccinated because of fears of autism or other reasons not supported by the medical community should discuss vaccinations with doctors, Wagener said.
Wagener said vaccines have dramatically reduced cases of the mumps. Before the measeles, mumps and rubella vaccine was introduced in 1967, there were 186,000 cases of the mumps a year; those cases have been reduced by 99 percent, Wagener said. However, there are still occasional outbreaks, such as one in northwest Arkansas in 2016 that had thousands of cases, she said.