Barrington mumps cases on verge of an outbreak
A cluster of mumps cases in Barrington schools is on the verge of an outbreak as health officials continue to identify more suspected cases of the disease.
Lake County Health Department officials Friday confirmed two cases of mumps at Barrington High School and 18 suspected cases. Meanwhile, Prairie and Station middle schools in Barrington reported nine suspected cases.
The health department considers three confirmed cases of mumps an outbreak. Students and staff members who showed symptoms were undergoing saliva tests to determine whether they have mumps, but results were not available Friday, officials said.
"If it does get to the point of an outbreak, then we will talk with the state health department about determining what the next steps are," Lake County Health Department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said.
School officials sent parents an email alerting them to watch for signs and symptoms of the contagious disease and to contact their child's physician if they notice symptoms, spokeswoman Morgan Delack said. The school district did not report an increase in student absences Friday.
A student and one employee at the high school have mumps, said Viktor Plotkin, supervisor of the health department's communicable disease program. The student received proper vaccinations, while the health department still is searching for vaccination records of the employee.
Immunity from diseases can fade after childhood vaccinations, but it is important from a public health perspective to receive vaccinations to prevent outbreaks, Plotkin said.
The health department is still investigating whether the remaining students were vaccinated. So far, the health department has been unable to locate vaccination records for at least five of the high school students, Plotkin said.
Illinois school-age children are required to receive a measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, or MMR, though they can receive exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The requirement is for a vaccination shot at age 1 and a booster at ages 4, 5 or 6, officials said.
Ten of 252 schools in Lake County have less than 90 percent of students vaccinated, according to the health department. Schools with a lower vaccination rate are primarily private schools, officials said.
Thirty students at Barrington High School were not vaccinated for medical or religious reasons during the 2014-2015 school year, the most recent data available through the Illinois State Board of Education. Station and Prairie middle schools had a combined 35 students who were not vaccinated for the same year. Overall, 98 percent of all Barrington Unit District 220 students were vaccinated.
Mumps cases are rare in the county. The health department on average reports two cases a year, officials said.
In 2015, an outbreak of measles at a Palatine preschool led to a law requiring day care workers be immunized against the disease. The Palatine children who caught the measles were too young to be vaccinated against the disease, but the cases -- more than a dozen in the suburbs -- prompted statewide concern about immunizations and parents who choose not to vaccinate.
The same year, state lawmakers passed legislation requiring parents to get a doctor's note before claiming a religious exemption from getting their kids vaccinated.
If there's a positive to be taken from the mumps cases, Plotkin said, it's the renewed attention on the importance of vaccines. The health department has also been working to eliminate falsehoods about vaccines.
"The news about a relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism has been dispelled so many times," Plotkin said. "We absolutely don't accept this in public health."
Facts about mumpsFacts about mumps
Incubation period: 2-3 weeks.
Contagious period: One or two days before to five days after onset of parotitis (swelling near the jaw and neck).
Symptoms: Swelling or pain close to the jaw on one or both sides of the face is the hallmark symptom. Also headache, low-grade fever, earache, sore throat or cough.
How it's spread: Sneezing, coughing, sharing of cups or other items with contact to saliva.
Treatment: Only general supportive therapy is needed. See your doctor if symptoms last more than two days.
Control of cases: Patients suspected of having mumps should remain home for five days after the onset of swelling.
Control of contacts: Students and staff not appropriately immunized will be excluded from work or classes from days 12 to 25 days after their last exposure.
Prevention measures: Ensure your child is up-to-date with vaccinations. Practice good hygiene throughout the day. Cover your nose and mouth with tissue or the crook of your arm when coughing or sneezing. Don't share items that go in the mouth.
Source: Lake County Health Department