A national outbreak of the mumps virus is now spreading throughout Arkansas. As of Oct. 11, a suspected 427 cases were reported in Arkansas, making it the largest outbreak of the virus in 15 years, according to THV 11.
According to ABC News, a majority of the cases have been seen in children, with a total of 30 Arkansas schools reporting one or more cases within their student body.
The mumps virus is spread through the air by way of coughing and sneezing, as well as by contact with an infected individual, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Schools are urging students who are believed to be infected to stay home, while Arkansas Department of Health is encouraging parents to vaccinate their children against the virus.
Assistant professor of nursing DeeAnn Martin, said that getting the vaccine is the most effective way to prevent contracting the mumps virus.
“The CDC states that receiving one dose of the mumps vaccine is 78 percent effective, while two doses are 88 percent effective in preventing acquiring the disease if exposed,” Martin said.
The vaccine is typically given to babies at 12 to 15 months of age, with a second dose at ages four to six. While schools throughout Arkansas require the vaccine for enrollment, there are exemptions available for medical or religious reasons. Schools are now requiring unvaccinated students believed to have the virus to remain at home for 26 days unless they receive the vaccine.
While outbreaks such as this are rare, they are easily spread among students because of close contact in classrooms and on campuses.
“Because of our vaccination programs in the United States, the incidence of mumps is uncommon,” Martin said. “However, outbreaks do occur, especially when people are in close contact, such as dormitories.”
Receiving the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is the most effective way to avoid catching the virus, however, there are other precautions students can take to prevent the catch and spread of the mumps virus.
Lynn McCarty, registered nurse for Student Health Services, advised frequent washing of hands, avoiding touching the face, mouth and eyes and avoiding sharing drinks and food with those believed to be exposed to the virus.
Harding University requires the MMR vaccine before admission. However, they do allow State Health Department approved exemptions. Students are encouraged to receive the vaccine, if they have not done so already, in order to prevent the spread of the virus on campus.