"I know there's nothing to those stories about the MMR vaccine, but I still don't want him to get it today."
The toddler's mother was having a brief debate with herself, and on that particular day, fear was winning out over reason. I did my best to try to convince the mom to protect her boy with this important vaccine, but she wanted more time to think it over.
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While I empathize with fellow parents as they make important medical decisions for their kids, I can't say I really understand the path taken by those who "decline" to immunize their kids against vaccine-preventable diseases.
This choice often reminds me of a phrase a pediatric colleague likes to use on the rare occasions he's on the losing end of a discussion: "Don't confuse me with the facts!"
Anyway, I digress, because this column is not really about the "Vaccine Issue," but rather about a disease most parents think of as so last century: mumps.
Mumps is a viral disease which actually still pops up periodically in the U.S. In fact, The Associated Press reports that Illinois has already seen 65 cases of mumps this year, compared with a total of 26 cases reported across all 12 months of 2013.
So far this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also been tracking mumps outbreaks on two college campuses in the states of Ohio and New York.
The CDC notes that the current standard practice of administering two MMR (combined measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines -- generally one at 12-15 months of age with a booster shot at 4-6 years -- is 88 percent effective at protecting against mumps. The group finds that high vaccination rates "help limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks."
American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book authors explain that the mumps virus is spread through contact with infectious respiratory tract secretions and saliva, and can causes disease within 12 to 25 days of exposure.
Mumps classically manifests as swelling of the salivary glands, most often the parotid glands located at the back of the cheeks, in front and below the ears. Mumps-affected individuals should remain in isolation for five days after the start of this parotid swelling.
While inflammation of the testicles -- mumps orchitis -- is common in infected males between the ages of 15 and 29, sterility is fortunately rare.
Less than 10 percent of mumps patients will experience viral meningitis and rare complications of mumps include arthritis, mastitis, oophoritis (inflammation of the ovary), pancreatitis, and permanent hearing impairment, among others.
In the CDC's Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, researcher Amy Parker Fiebelkorn and colleagues instruct school administrators on attendance issues in the event of a mumps outbreak.
Students who have not received the MMR vaccine should be excluded from campus until the 26th day after parotitis develops in the last student known to be infected with the mumps virus.
The CDC researchers find that the mumps vaccination is not a global standard, with only 61 percent of countries routinely vaccinating against the infectious respiratory disease.
This international gap in immunization leads the team to caution that, "Cases of mumps will continue to be imported into the United States as long as mumps continues to be endemic globally."
• Dr. Helen Minciotti is a mother of five and a pediatrician with a practice in Schaumburg. She formerly chaired the Department of Pediatrics at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.