Three Boone County residents suspected of having mumps were asked to quarantine themselves at home pending lab results to confirm whether they contracted the virus, which continues to spread throughout the Midwest.
Health officials urged people to remain calm and continued to advise residents to check their immunization records.
Two of the three county residents suspected of having mumps live in Columbia. Health officials said all of the cases were mild and that the patients are doing well.
“There is no reason for public alarm,” said Stephanie Browning, health director at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department.
The department contacted people who may have had contact with the infected patients to check on their immunizations and to make certain they know they might have been exposed.
“At this point we don’t have an answer as to how all these cases fit together in a puzzle,” said Heather Baer of the health department.
She said Columbia residents can contact the health department or their physicians in order to obtain their immunization record.
The state health department on Friday reported 54 probable and 15 confirmed cases of mumps in Missouri. Three of those people, all in the northwest part of the state, were hospitalized.
Lola Russell of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the highest number of cases — 1,273 — was in Iowa. Another 786 possible and confirmed cases were reported in nine other states, including Missouri. Twenty people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.
“All the elements seem to have come together to create favorable conditions for mumps,” said Brian Quinn of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “We don’t know why now, why here.”
Quinn said only four of the 69 cases in Missouri were linked to cases in other states. Although those four people had traveled to states with cases of mumps, he said, this does not necessarily mean they were infected there.
All cases of mumps in the Midwest fall under the same “genotype G” strain, according to the CDC.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite followed by swelling of salivary glands. The parotid salivary glands, which are located in the cheek near the jaw line and below the ears, are most frequently affected.
Officials warn, however, that up to 20 percent of people with the virus do not show symptoms and may unknowingly spread the disease. People who are infected with symptomatic mumps are sometimes able to transmit the virus for two or three days before the symptoms appear. Complications are rare, but can include inflammation of the brain, testicles, ovaries and/or breasts as well as spontaneous abortion and deafness. Adults are more likely to have complications from mumps than children, said Sue Denny of the DHSS.
Health officials encourage children to have two vaccines for mumps before elementary school. The first vaccine is recommended at 12 to 15 months of age; the second at 4 to 6 years. Denny said that since 1990, Missouri law has required children to have had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine before they started school. The state allows medical and religious exemptions, she said, but not very many people use them.
“We’re not even in a major outbreak situation here in Missouri,” she said. “The situation should be taken seriously, but people should not be alarmed.”
The mumps vaccine is 90 percent effective if a person received two doses and 80 percent effective for a single dose, according to the CDC. Officials said they have no reason to believe there is a problem with the existing vaccine, as some have suggested. People who have already had the mumps are assumed to be protected.