It’s a common anti-vaccine myth that we rename diseases to make them go away. It helps them explain the control, elimination, and eradication of diseases, since many of them don’t believe that vaccines actually work.
Now imagine that “they” actually found evidence that we did rename vaccine-preventable diseases!
That would be something, wouldn’t it…
Did CNN Rename Mumps?
Of course, they haven’t.
The original CNN story about the USS Fort McHenry stated that the sailors and Marines had parotitis, which was “due to an outbreak of a viral infection similar to mumps.”
Why didn’t they just say that they had mumps?
Because that’s not what they were told by the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
“… a military medical team specializing in preventative medical care is expected to deploy in the coming days to make an assessment if further steps may be needed, according to the official.”
US warship quarantined at sea due to virus outbreak
It may come as a surprise to some people, but many viruses and bacteria can cause parotitis. And until the outbreak was further investigated, they didn’t know if it really was mumps or another condition.
Since then, the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) has stated that “based on clinical presentation and laboratory testing, these cases are currently classified as probable cases of mumps.”
Still, a very small percentage of the sailors and Marines on board have gotten mumps. That’s because vaccines work, even when they don’t work perfectly well.
“Beginning in 1991, the military services implemented universal recruit immunization with a single dose of MMR vaccine, regardless of prior vaccination history. Shortly thereafter, and informed by the results of population serosurveys, the Air Force transitioned to a policy of targeted MMR vaccination, limiting the administration of MMR vaccine to recruits lacking serologic evidence of immunity to measles or rubella. With recent outbreaks of mumps, concerns have arisen that the practice of not specifically screening for mumps immunity in determining the need for MMR vaccine could lead to a relative increase in mumps risk among military recruits subject to screening. “
Eick et al on Incidence of mumps and immunity to measles, mumps and rubella among US military recruits, 2000–2004
Unlike measles, the MMR vaccine provides good, but not great protection against mumps.
And although military recruits are screened to see if they have low titers for measles and rubella, they still aren’t screened for mumps. The theory is that if their measles and rubella titers are low, then their mumps titer will be low too and they will get an MMR vaccine. Of course, this misses some who just have a low mumps titer, possibly an effect of waning immunity.
Mumps on the USS Fort McHenry
And that’s why we have been seeing mumps outbreaks on college campuses and most recently, on a Navy ship, although that isn’t a reason for everyone to go out and check their titers.
In the pre-vaccine era, although mumps was supposed to be a common childhood illness, about 1/3 to 1/2 of military recruits had never had mumps.
That meant big outbreaks of mumps that were hard to control, unlike what we see today.
“This article reports a recent public health response to 3 imported mumps cases occurring at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, that resulted in a contact investigation for 109 close contacts across varied settings. No secondary mumps cases were identified.”
Public Health Response to Imported Mumps Cases – Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 2018
Instead, not only do fewer people get sick during mumps outbreaks these days, but fortunately, they have fewer complications.
In addition to a swollen jaw, mumps is known to cause orchitis, aseptic meningitis, oophoritis, pancreatitis, and encephalitis.
“Risk was reduced for hospitalization, mumps orchitis and mumps meningitis when patient had received 1 dose of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. The protective effect of vaccination on disease severity is critical in assessing the total effects of current and future mumps control strategies.”
Young et al on Mumps Complications and Effects of Mumps Vaccination, England and Wales, 2002–2006
Fortunately, those complications are reduced when you get vaccinated. And so are your risks of actually getting mumps in the first place!
“This study demonstrates a significant preventive effect of two-dose vaccination against mumps complications (orchitis, meningitis, or encephalitis) and hospitalization for mumps.”
Orlíkováet al on Protective effect of vaccination against mumps complications, Czech Republic, 2007-2012.