Editorial: Cover your mouth when you sneeze

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 10, 2006

A confirmed case of mumps in southern Minnesota following 365 confirmed cases in Iowa since January is no cause to panic.

Health officials see no reason to believe the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is not effective. No vaccine is 100-percent effective. The mumps vaccine is up to 95 percent effective, so 5 percent of those who’ve been vaccinated might not be fully protected and therefore could get the disease if exposed. The number of cases occurring in Iowa is consistent with what officials could expect to see during the outbreak of the disease in a well-vaccinated population.

Of course, there are always things people can do to protect themselves. First, they should make sure their immunizations are up to date. Adults should have one dose of MMR and children two doses. Most Minnesotans under 31 years of age who attended school in Minnesota have had two doses of MMR vaccine because of school requirements in place since 1992. Those over age 65 are likely to be immune from having the disease.

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Good respiratory hygiene can also come into play, since mumps is spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs droplets into the air another person breathes in the virus. Cover coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue; wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and avoid close contact with someone who has mumps. And please, stay home from school or work if illness does strike. Minnesotans also need to be on the lookout for mumps in themselves or their families. At the first sign of illness they should contact their health care provider right away so they can be evaluated.

The good news is that while mumps can make a person feel miserable and be an inconvenience in terms of missed school or work, the disease is rarely if ever life-threatening. Some people who are infected show no symptoms at all; others may see the symptoms linger for 10 days.

Either way, we urge you to protect yourself by making sure your family’s vaccinations are up to date and you practice good respiratory hygiene.