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Mumps case confirmed at school in Waikoloa

KAILUA-KONA — A case of mumps was confirmed earlier this month at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School.

The state Department of Education announced the confirmation in a Nov. 17 letter to parents, guardians, faculty and staff. The DOE said it cannot identify whether the individual is a student or employee, citing privacy laws, but said the department is working with the state Department of Health’s Immunization Branch to prevent the spread of the virus.

The confirmation comes amid an outbreak of the mumps throughout the state, including cases previously found in schools in Ka‘u and Hilo.

Cases have been confirmed in children and adults, vaccinated and unvaccinated, according to the Health Department. Nearly three-fifths of the cases have been in adults.

The DOH confirmed 602 cases of mumps, with 66 cases in Hawaii County, so far in 2017.

The confirmation of a case of mumps at the Waikoloa school led the DOE to exclude from school anybody who came within close contact of the person confirmed to have the virus, as required by state law.

The determination required anybody who had close contact to be excluded from the school from Nov. 11-Dec. 5 unless they were born before 1957 or had a blood test showing an immunity to mumps or previous diagnosis of the disease or written documentation of a mumps vaccination.

Students and staff could be readmitted immediately after a vaccination unless they developed symptoms.

The DOE referred questions about how many students and employees were excluded from school because of close contact with the individual to the Health Department. That agency was not immediately able to provide those numbers.

Mumps symptoms include swollen and tender salivary glands, fever, tiredness, headache and muscle aches.

The mumps virus is spread via saliva or mucus, and an infected person can spread the virus through coughing, sneezing, talking, sharing cups or utensils and touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands.

A vaccination, such as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, is the best way to prevent contracting the virus, according to the DOH.

All students must meet immunization requirements before they’re allowed to attend any public or private school in the state, according to state law. That requirement includes schools as well as nurseries and day care centers. The MMR vaccine is among those required for school attendance, according to the DOE.

Exemptions from immunization requirements are only allowed for medical or religious reasons and documentation must be presented to the school.

Given the current outbreak, the Department of Health is recommending in addition to the routine vaccination, adults born in 1957 or later and adolescents older than 10 years old get an additional MMR vaccine now.

The majority of those born prior to 1957 are likely to have been infected with the virus before and “are presumed to be protected,” according to the agency. Those born before 1957 and are unsure if they had the disease before should consult a health care provider.

The DOH says the mumps vaccine prevents most cases. A single dose is 78 percent effective, while two doses are 88 percent effective.

Email Cameron Miculka at cmiculka@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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