This is our last foray into the wondrous world of childhood diseases. I hope you have learned something along the way to retroactively understand what was going on with your health back in the day. Let’s finish our tour with the mumps.
The mumps is a viral disease that is most infamous for affecting the glands. The New York State Department of Health lists the symptoms of mumps as fever, muscle weakness, and swelling in the salivary glands, especially those, “situated along the angle of the jaw and inside the mouth, including the parotid gland located within the cheeks just below the front of the ear” (“Mumps” par, 1). There is a sixteen to eighteen day incubation period after one contracts the virus for the first symptoms to show up. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with saliva or other bodily fluids of an affected person. Like chickenpox, once one has had the disease they are generally immune to it for the rest of their lives. There is no serious threat of further complications from contracting the mumps, but rare cases of inflammation in the brain, spine, and reproductive organs have been seen.
The vaccine for mumps was created in 1967. The vaccine has had a great impact, lowering the number of annual cases from as many as 200,000 to 300 annually (“Mumps” par, 2). Still, there has been an increase recently in the number of mumps outbreaks. As reported by James Madison University, there were outbreaks in Iowa and Oklahoma in 2005 as well as outbreaks across Virginia’s college campuses (“Mumps Information” 1). The mumps vaccine is combined with the measles and rubella virus, as discussed in the measles post. Also discussed in that post was Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study that said the vaccine was linked to the onset of autism. In another study published in 1999 by the same journal responsible for Wakefield’s study, the Lancet, it was found that there was no connection between the vaccine and autism. The study claimed, “Our results do not support the hypothesis that MMR vaccination is causally related to autism, either its initiation or to the onset of regression-the main symptom mentioned in the paper by Wakefield and others” (Taylor 2029).
This all goes back to a topic that has come up often in my research of childhood diseases. The idea of vaccination is a controversial one, with many people questioning their safety. I understand religious opposition to vaccines as they view them sacrilegiously. I also understand parents’ fears when they have heard often of complications from vaccination. Still, any serious medical doctor will tell you that vaccinating is very, very important. Natural versions of diseases can me much more harmful than the specially created versions in vaccines. They are also important in making sure no large-scale epidemics break out that could cause much more harm to a greater number of people than would a rare number of isolated complications. If you are a parent reading this blog, please take mine and the medical society’s advice and take your child to the doctor to get their shots. In the long run it will be better for everyone!