Mumps - Description

Mumps is a very contagious (catching) infection. It spreads easily in densely populated areas, such as schools. At one time, mumps was very common in the United States. Prior to 1967, about 92 percent of all children had been exposed to mumps by the age of fifteen. Most children developed the disease between the ages of four and seven. Mumps epidemics reappeared in two- to five-year cycles. The greatest mumps epidemic in modern times occurred in 1941. There were about 250 cases of the disease for every 100,000 Americans.

This pattern began to change in 1968, when a mumps vaccine was released. The vaccine proved very effective in preventing the disease. By 1985, less than 3,000 cases of mumps were reported in the entire United States. That works out to less than 1 case per 100,000 people.

Inflammation of the brain.
Inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Only two years later, the news about mumps in the United States had taken a turn for the worse. The rate of infections had increased five times. The reason given for this increase was the failure to have all young children vaccinated against the disease. Many states became concerned about this trend. They passed laws requiring all children in kindergarten and first grade to have vaccinations against mumps. The success of these efforts became apparent in 1996. In that year, only 751 cases of mumps were reported nationwide, or about 1 case for every 5 million people.

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