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Mumps at school concerns health community

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - Public Health announced today that a student at Simon Sanchez High School student came down with a case of the mumps, but has since been cleared medically and is now back at school. Guam law requires students in kindergarten through 12th grade to show proof of vaccination for both the measles and mumps and rubella, but somehow this one slipped through the cracks.

Dr. Vince Akimoto told KUAM News, "That person got mumps because he didn't get the mumps shot. The only reason to get mumps these days is you didn't get the shot or complete immunity. The only way to get tuberculosis is you didn't get screened and the problem at DOE is we don't have a strong immunization program.  We don't have any."

Following a situation where a student tested positive for another infectious disease just last week, many in the community are concerned about a lack of notice from Public Health.  Resident Donna Purcell said, "It would bring a sense of panic to me as a parent. I probably wouldn't send my child to school with a kid who had mumps for a week or a week and a half maybe two weeks because I would be afraid about it going around the school and my son or daughter being subject to the measles or mumps."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - mumps is known for swelling of the cheeks and jaw and causes inflammation of the salivary glands. It can also cause fevers and headaches - one in ten children that get the disease is more likely to get meningitis. Since the virus enters your body, in boys it can cause swelling and inflammation of the testicles, and in rare cases it can cause swelling of the brain and the heart.

Dr. Edgar Magcalas is an infectious disease doctor with health partners, and says, "I'm really concerned because you seldom see cases of mumps nowadays since the vaccination has been implemented especially in kids, where it's part of the vaccines called MMR. I'm just wondering where that patient got exposed to."

While DOE and Public Health are currently investigating how the student may have gotten the disease in the first place, Dr. Magcalas points out that isolation is a critical part of prevention.  He said, "It's a supportive treatment - isolate the patient who has been diagnosed with mumps because they can infect three days before and nine days after swelling has subsided."

Concerned parents are advised to take their kids to their pediatrician and make sure that they are up to date with all their vaccines. Next week Public Health will offer free MMR vaccinations for those identified to be in close contact with the confirmed case. Letters were sent home today with students. 

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