Pitkin County confirms three mumps cases
After at least a decade with no reported cases of the mumps, Pitkin County has confirmed three cases of the serious disease in the past six months, a county health official said Thursday.
“For public health it is a concern,” said Liz Stark, Pitkin County’s public health director. “We don’t want this in our community because it can cause serious complications.”
Stark issued a warning to parents of Aspen School District children in April that a student in the district tested positive for the disease. No other information about the student was released.
Stark declined Thursday to release any information about the three people who contracted the disease, including whether they’d been vaccinated against the disease or not. Federal law prohibits people’s health-related details from being released.
However, she said the last person with the disease recovered in the past month.
Stark, who’s been public health director for the past 10 years, said she’s never seen a case of mumps in the Roaring Fork Valley during that time. Denver reported a cluster of four or possibly six cases in February, which Stark said also was unusual.
Mumps causes fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and swollen salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In rare cases, it can cause swelling of the testicles in men that can lead to sterility, as well as meningitis that can lead to death and encephalitis or swelling of the brain, Stark said.
Colorado is one of a few states that allows parents to exempt their children from vaccines for personal reasons. Most other states only allow exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella has been linked in popular culture to autism; however, that theory has been discredited, with experts from both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics reporting that the vaccine is not responsible for autism, according to the CDC website.
Prior to the vaccine’s widespread use beginning in the late 1960s, the United States experienced about 186,000 cases of mumps a year, Stark said.
The fact that people still believe the vaccine causes autism is frustrating, Stark said, because science has shown abundant proof that link doesn’t exist.
“Vaccination is the best prevention,” she said.
However, the vaccine is about 88 percent effective, so a person can still catch the disease even with a vaccination, Stark said.
Elise Dreher, Aspen School District nurse, said about 95 percent of children in the district have been vaccinated. That means that of the approximately 1,700 children in the district, about 85 have not been vaccinated, she said.
Dreher said she did not know of the other two cases reported by the county’s Public Health Department.
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