A New Age of Disease?

A case of mumps in an East Boston elementary school adds to the increasing number of preventable disease cases in 2019

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A New Age of Disease?

Dr. Moore informs a student about the complications of measles

Dr. Moore informs a student about the complications of measles

Jacqueline Downs

Dr. Moore informs a student about the complications of measles

Jacqueline Downs

Jacqueline Downs

Dr. Moore informs a student about the complications of measles

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2019 has already been an active year for measles and as it only continues to ramp-up, there may be another infectious disease on the horizon.

At the end of April, it was reported that a third-grader from James Otis Elementary School in East Boston had tested positive for mumps. The Boston Globe’s Danny McDonald reported in the article “East Boston elementary school student tests positive for the mumps” that Principal Paula Cerqueira-Goncalves sent out an email to the school community. In it she stated that “We do not believe the student has come into close contact with any students in our school who are not vaccinated.”

Massachusetts law requires all students to provide vaccination records, including those for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), polio, DTap/Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), Hepatitis B, and Varicella (chicken pox). Of course, such laws apply to Triton students as well.

“You need to be fully vaccinated to enter the school system”

— Nadine Marcheterre

“You need to be fully vaccinated to enter the school system,” explained Triton’s nurse Nadine Marcheterre. “Unless you have a religious or moral belief that you don’t want to be vaccinated and in that case you need to provide your written belief why you don’t want to be vaccinated; and that needs to be done every year.”

“Mumps and measles are viral infections that have been eradicated mostly in this area, probably since 2000, and mostly due to widespread vaccination programs,” said Marcheterre. “They are becoming more prevalent due to lack of vaccination.”

Mumps is one of the three infectious diseases that can be prevented through the MMR vaccine. It is usually characterized by a swollen face and neck, but can also be accompanied by a fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Symptoms typically appear between 16-18 days after infection.

“Measles and mumps had all but disappeared before people decided to stop getting vaccinated,” explained Dr. Ellen Moore, a freshmen biology and anatomy and physiology teacher at Triton. “Now we see over 1000 cases emerging in our country and it is frightening to think disease like this that are preventable may start to affect many families again.”

This case of mumps comes during a year when vaccination rates are falling and measles cases are rising. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that as of May 3, 2019, 764 cases of measles have been reported, the highest number of cases since 1994. This is especially alarming as measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000.

“There is something called herd immunity,” said Marcheterre. “If the community is fully vaccinated we are not only protecting ourselves and our children, but we are also protecting people that are unable to be vaccinated due to allergies to the vaccinations – like eggs. Some of the vaccinations have eggs in them, therefore these people cannot be vaccinated.”

The CDC noted that most of those infected with the disease were not vaccinated, with 2018’s outbreaks being caused by infected travelers bringing measles into communities with high rates of not being vaccinated. Attention was brought especially to the Orthodox Jewish communities in the New York area that were linked to some of the 2018 outbreaks.

Our own principal, Kathryn Dawe, explained the process that would occur should one of our students become infected, which includes working closely with the school nurse.

“We would go to the nurse and find out, you know, has that student been vaccinated,” said Dawe. “Her protocol would be, we would certainly get in touch with any students that we know of that aren’t immunized and let them know that they may have been exposed to a virus. The students who aren’t immunized, I would be concerned for their health.”

“It has to be a group effort – if the majority isn’t vaccinated than the vaccine will not be useful,” said Moore. “The benefits of vaccination far outweighs the risks as shown by scientific studies.”

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Works Cited

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Measles,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 April 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html

 

NECN. “East Boston Elementary School Student Tests Positive for Mumps,” NECN, NBCUniversal Media, 26 April 2019, https://www.necn.com/news/new-england/Elementary-School-Student-in-East-Boston-Tests-Positive-for-Mumps-509145351.html

 

Mass.gov. “School immunizations,” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2019, https://www.mass.gov/service-details/school-immunizations

 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Mumps,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 March 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/index.html

 

McDonald, Danny. “East Boston elementary school student tests positive for the mumps,” Boston Globe, Boston Globe Media Partners, 26 April 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/26/east-boston-elementary-school-student-tests-positive-for-mumps/dJZOhFJygJEBPY6bdq1BYJ/story.html