As the 1,300 students at Central High School return to classes Thursday from the Christmas break, two of their fellow students are recovering from the mumps, and Phenix City Schools is enforcing the state law that requires students to be vaccinated against the contagious disease before attending.
In an emailed interview this week with the Ledger-Enquirer, Phenix City superintendent Randy Wilkes said he doesn’t know whether the two students who last week were confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health to have the mumps were vaccinated against the virus, and the L-E hasn’t reached anybody at the health department to answer that question.
Since 1975, Alabama public school students in grades K-12 have needed two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). Wilkes reminded Central parents and guardians of that law in an automated phone message.
Wilkes told the L-E those two mumps cases still are the only ones that have been reported in the 7,200-student system during this outbreak. He said the two students with the mumps are “doing well” and they are “minor cases, according to both parents.”
Wilkes also noted that, according to the health department, “The vaccine is not a strong dose. Students who have had vaccines do get mumps. All students are allowed to enroll in PCS regardless of shots but are not allowed to attend until shots are taken.”
Mumps affect the salivary glands. Symptoms include puffy, swollen cheeks and jaws along with fever, headache, pain and other flu-like symptoms. The disease usually clears on its own, though some serious complications like hearing loss or meningitis can occur, according to the CDC.
The CDC says on its website, “Postlicensure studies have demonstrated one dose of MMR vaccine is 78% (range, 45%-97%) effective for prevention of mumps. The second dose of MMR is intended to produce immunity in those who did not respond to the first dose, but a very small percentage of people may not be protected even after a second dose.”
As for how common mumps are, the CDC says, “Due to good immunization coverage, mumps is now rare in the United States. An estimated 212,000 cases occurred in 1964, while only 229 cases were reported in 2012. Large outbreaks of mumps occurred in the United States in 2006 and 2009–10 with more than 6,000 and 3,000 cases, respectively, reported in those years.”