Medical City Healthcare - April 18, 2017

Mumps are Back: What You Need to Know about Vaccines

If your children haven't received the mumps vaccination, you should know that according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Lone Star State is experiencing a 20-year high in mumps cases. Although mumps cases dropped more than 99% following the development of the mumps vaccine in 1967, outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated countries such as the U.S.

Symptoms of Mumps

Here's how to spot a case of mumps:

  • Stage 1: Fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite
  • Stage 2: Swelling of the salivary glands, which causes puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw

If you suspect that your child has mumps, your pediatrician can perform a virus culture or blood test to know for sure. As a virus, there's no treatment for mumps other than fluids, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Most children and adults recover from an uncomplicated case of mumps in about two weeks.

The mumps vaccine is the best way to protect your children from this contagious disease. According to the CDC, it is very safe and effective. Children 12 months through 12 years of age can receive the vaccine, which requires two doses to reach full effectiveness.

If you're still on the fence about the mumps vaccine and vaccines in general, here's what Lily Strong, MD, a pediatrician at Medical City Children's Hospital, tells concerned parents.

Vaccines are Effective

Since the introduction of vaccines more than 50 years ago, some of the most devastating diseases have been greatly reduced and even eradicated completely from our country. Today, vaccines protect children and adolescents from 16 serious diseases including meningitis, whooping cough, measles and even cervical cancer.

Most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% percent effective in preventing disease. If someone who was vaccinated does get the disease, the symptoms are often milder and less serious than someone who is unvaccinated. Some vaccines can cause mild side effects like soreness or fever, but these are temporary and often resolve without treatment. It is rare for vaccines to cause any serious side effects.

Vaccines are necessary.

Vaccines save lives and protect against the spread of disease. Thus, pediatricians and other healthcare providers believe that your children should receive ALL recommended vaccines on time. When parents do not vaccinate their children, they are not only putting their own child at risk for getting a serious disease but also putting others at risk. This vulnerable population includes young infants, those with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

Because of the effectiveness of vaccines, many of us have never seen a child with illnesses like polio, tetanus or measles. However, some vaccine-preventable diseases still occur in the United States and can be brought into the United States by people who travel abroad. When immunization rates start to decline even just a little, a resurgence of diseases that were once rarely seen can occur. Good examples of this are the recent increase in cases of measles, mumps and pertussis (whooping cough) in Dallas County.

In addition to the initial vaccinations given to infants and toddlers, it is also very important for children to receive their booster immunizations. These vaccines are given before kindergarten and during adolescence. These vaccines are designed to “boost” the previous vaccines' effectiveness. When parents forget or skip these necessary vaccines, we are more likely to see a return of these illnesses.

Vaccines are Safe

The safety and effectiveness of vaccines are under constant review. Before a vaccine is licensed in the United States, it undergoes rigorous study by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will not license the vaccine unless it meets the agency's high standards for effectiveness and safety. Vaccines are reviewed again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians before any official recommendation to give to children is made.

Once a vaccine is licensed for use, it continues to be monitored for safety indefinitely. This system includes the creation of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) which requires physicians to report certain side effects from vaccines. Parents are able to report a potential side effect as well. To learn more about VAERS, visit their website.

Vaccines are Studied

Over the last several years, vaccine safety has been questioned by some. Specifically, there have been questions about the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causing autism, too many vaccines overwhelming the immune system and the safety of thimerosal in vaccines.

Extensive scientific research has been conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine on all of these topics. These studies continue to conclude that vaccines are safe, effective, and do not cause autism.

Autism is a chronic developmental disorder that is often diagnosed in toddlers around 18 to 30 months of age. The MMR vaccine is given just before the peak age of onset of autism. This timing has led some to mistakenly assume an association between the two. Increasing evidence indicates that autism is determined while the baby is in utero, early in pregnancy and not by vaccines.

Unfortunately, these fears of vaccines causing autism has led to under-vaccinated areas in the United States. Consequently, we have now seen outbreaks of diseases once thought to be nearly eliminated from our country.

One must use caution when getting information about vaccine safety from sources not based on scientific facts, including unsourced internet sites, blogs and word of mouth. If parents have any concerns about vaccinating their children, it is a good idea to speak with their pediatrician. Pediatricians are advocates for children's health and vaccines play a crucial role in protecting children against serious diseases.

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About Dr. Lily Strong

Lily Hsu Strong, MD, is a board certified pediatrician from Dallas, Texas. She feels it is a privilege to care for children and finds it rewarding to help them feel better when they are sick. She loves living in her hometown with her husband, an ophthalmologist, and their three sons. She enjoys traveling, learning about other cultures, cooking, hiking, tennis and spending time with her family.

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