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Officials Tell Unvaccinated Faculty, Students To Stay Home From School After Mumps Cases

Image of MMR Vaccine. / manjurul

Two cases of mumps identified in school kids in Sanpete County over the weekend have raised concerns about vaccination rates in the state.

According to Ward, a health educator with the Utah Department of Health in the bureau of epidemiology, the vaccination exemption rate for students from kindergarten through 12th grade is 12.6% in the North Sanpete School District. That’s over twice the 5.3% statewide exemption rate. She said other parts of Utah have higher vaccine exemption rates.

Officials with the Central Utah Public Health Department have chosen not to identify the individual schools affected. Officials have asked all unvaccinated students and faculty members in the state to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or remove themselves from schools and school activities for the required 26 days it takes for an outbreak to subside.

“If there are children who are highly unvaccinated in a population the best thing we can do is try to get them vaccinated or exclude them from crowds or schools or childcare facilities,” Ward said.

Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands. It’s spread through coughing and sneezing and can lead to serious complications including inflammation of the brain and deafness.

In Utah the two-dose MMR vaccine is required for K-12 students to attend school unless their parents request an exemption for religious, philosophical or medical reasons. The vast majority of those exemptions are for philosophical reasons, Ward said.

Several vaccination clinics have been set up this week at the Mount Pleasant Health Department in Sanpete County focused on providing MMR vaccinations.

Almost a dozen cases of mumps appear in Utah each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2019 has been among the worst years for measles outbreaks since 2000. Measles is even more contagious than mumps and cases have been identified in 20 states around the country so far this year. Utah has not experienced any measles cases.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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