A Lee Middle School student suspected of having mumps doesn’t have the illness after all, District 4 Health officials said Tuesday.
However, the Georgia Department of Public Health is urging parents to make sure their children are up to date on their immunizations – particularly the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
After District 4 Health was notified of the possibility the Coweta student had mumps on May 24, the organization sent out a letter to parents of students in the Coweta County School System about the nature of the student’s illness, pending test results. The letter also was posted on the school system’s website.
In it, health officials stated parents did not need to keep their students home from school, because children who have received the recommended two doses of the (MMR) vaccine are “extremely unlikely” to develop mumps.
While Coweta schools dodged the mumps in this case, a nationwide outbreak of measles has affected more than 700 people so far – including six Georgians – and makes updating vaccinations even more critical.
It’s the highest number of cases since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and cases have been confirmed in at least 24 states.
In January, three Georgians were diagnosed with measles. Late last week, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed three new cases in metro Atlanta, all in one family. None of those who contracted the illness were vaccinated, according to the DPH.
Measles is a highly contagious, serious respiratory disease. Health officials say it is particularly dangerous for infants who cannot be immunized until they are at least 12 months old, and for young children who have only received one dose of measles vaccine.
According to a report issued Monday by the CDC, 71 percent – more than 500 – of this year's U.S. measles patients were unvaccinated; 11 percent (76) were vaccinated with at least one of the recommended doses; and 18 percent (125) had an unknown vaccination status.
Of those infected this year, 25 were younger than 6 months old; 68 were between 6-11 months old; and 167 were between 16 months and 4 years old, according to the CDC.
“Keeping immunization levels high is critical to preventing outbreaks or sustained transmission of measles in Georgia,” said Dr. Cherie Drenzek, chief science officer and state epidemiologist for the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It also provides herd immunity for those who cannot be vaccinated.”
The CDC said outbreaks in close-knit communities accounted for 88 percent of all U.S. cases. Of 44 cases directly imported from other countries, 34 were in U.S. residents traveling internationally. Most were not vaccinated, according to the CDC.
“High coverage with measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccination is the most effective way to limit transmission and maintain elimination of measles in the United States,” the report stated.
Measles symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, tiny white spots on the inner cheeks and a rash of tiny red spots that may become joined together as they spread.
Those experiencing symptoms should contact their health providers immediately but should not visit offices, clinics or hospitals without first notifying them of symptoms.