By Frank Lewis
Both the Portsmouth City Health Department and the Scioto County Health Department are urging people to get vaccinated before measles and mumps arrive in this county.
“There is a need for people to get measles and mumps vaccines,” Cindy Morrow, director of nursing at the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “There have been recent outbreaks of measles and mumps in several counties in Ohio. We haven’t had any here in Scioto County, but we’re concerned that, with the outbreaks, there is a real possibility that those diseases could come to Portsmouth and the surrounding area.”
Statistics reveal 26 total cases in Ohio, but the urgency of the situation is reflected in the fact that between April 28 and April 30, five new cases have been discovered, and both in new counties not previously listed in the count. Four of the new cases were in Ashland County and one in Coshocton County. In 2014 296 cases of mumps have been identified, 244 of those in Franklin County.
With the mumps first diagnosed on the campus of The Ohio State University, there is a fear it will spread..
“That outbreak started in January at the university, and I read yesterday that in April the Ohio Department of Health declared it a community outbreak,” Morrow said. “There’s concern that when summer starts those Ohio State University students go home, that they are going to bring it to other counties.”
Morrow said both departments specialize in certain types of services.
“We (Portsmouth and Scioto County health departments) handle different things,” Morrow said. “The Portsmouth City Health Department tends to handle most of the childhood immunizations and MMRs (measles mumps and Rubella) are typically given to children when they are between the ages of 12 months and 15 months and then again between the ages of 4 and 6. But if people didn’t get those immunizations, and they are adults now, they can go to the County Health Department because they handle immunizations for adults, and get the immunizations. Or they can go to their private physician and get them.”
Morrow said they want people in this area to be aware that there is an outbreak in the state and it is very important that they be immunized.
“If they don’t have a physician or they want to come to one of the health departments they can do that,” Morrow said.
When people think of the need for immunization against measles and mumps, they almost always think of children.
“What has happened with the measles outbreak is there was a group that went to the Phillipines for some international mission work and they were not vaccinated,” Ruth Montavon, director of nursing at the Scioto County Health Department, said. “Anybody that was born in 1957 and before may have had mumps disease but they may not have. So it is recommended that adults in certain high-risk situations receive a booster of MMR.”
She said health officials have not figured out where the mumps outbreak began
Montavon said there are several groups that need to get the booster, including under-vaccinated people, international travelers, adults involved in health care or care for children, university students and persons with potential mumps outbreak exposure.
“In 1999, with the MMR vaccine, it was required that a booster be added for kindergarten age,” Montavon said. “We used to do just one. And they found with disease surveillance that there were still outbreaks of mumps on college campuses because the vaccine wore off. So they added a booster to the kindergarten age in 1999. So we probably have college sophomores and juniors that have had only one MMR vaccine. Vaccines are not required on college campuses. It’s just a recommendation. “
Montavon said it is recommended those students on college campuses who don’t have an MMR booster.
“We have the adult vaccines at our health department,” Montavon said. “We also have CDC (Centers for Disease Control)- designated yellow fever vaccine sights. So you can get that and all travel vaccines. We carry every adult vaccine that’s recommended, and all the children’s vaccines.”
Morrow and Montavon both stressed the need for vaccination.
“It is really important that not just children, but adults get the vaccine if they haven’t had it,” Morrow said.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.