- The Washington Times
Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Officials with Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana State University have confirmed several cases of mumps at LSU Tuesday, a virus that once stood on the verge of extinction thanks to vaccines.

Since 1971, a vaccine that covers mumps, measles and rubella has been available on the market and prior to that a separate vaccine was available for the virus, which is not lethal and is rare in the United States.

The university released the bulletin Tuesday evening “because mumps is a contagious disease,” and urged members of the school community to get vaccinate. The school had five confirmed cases as of Wednesday, all involving people who live off-campus and who are in compliance with the university’s vaccination policies, according to Ernie Ballard, LSU director of media relations.

The university is offering free vaccines at its Student Health Injection Center. A worker there declined comment Wednesday when asked how many students and faculty had received a vaccine.

The outbreak comes at a time when most public health attention on campuses and elsewhere is dedicated to containing the coronavirus, an airborne virus that originated in China and has now hit more than 200 people worldwide in 20 different countries.

Like those infected with the coronavirus, people afflicted with mumps are supposed to be isolated for at least five days and there is no specific treatment for it. It was unclear if LSU had quarantined any students or faculty since the outbreak, which can be transmitted via air or saliva.

An anti-vaccine movement has existed, primarily in the Western world, since the publication of an article in The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, that claimed vaccines were linked to some cases of autism. That research was later found to be junk and its conclusions were withdrawn.

Nevertheless, the myth has remained, pushed in some cases by celebrities and others who celebrate vaccine-fee childhood as more free and organic. Some state legislatures are grappling with the consequences of the anti-vaccine movement, debating whether such children should be permitted to enroll in public schools where they may increase the chances of virus and disease transmission.

“Before the US mumps vaccination program started in 1967, about 186,000 cases were reported each year, but the actual number of cases was likely much higher due to underreporting,” according to the Center for Disease Control website. “Since the two-MMR dose vaccination program was introduced in 1989, US mumps cases have decreased by more than 99 percent, with only a few hundred cases reported most years. However, since 2006 there have been several increases in cases and outbreaks about every 5 years.”

LSU also suffered through a mumps outbreak in 2017.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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