MAY 01, 2006

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered 25,000 doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine from its stockpile to help with the virus outbreak in Iowa. The vaccine maker Merck has donated 25,000 doses to the CDC to use as needed. CDC officials predicted the mumps epidemic will continue to spread, given the nature of the virus and the way the outbreak is progressing. As of press time, >1000 had been reported in 8 states, mainly in the Midwest, and possible cases are being investigated in 7 other states.

The epidemic began late last year at an undisclosed Iowa university. The bulk of the cases, 815 so far, have been in Iowa. The CDC has 350 reported cases in 7 other neighboring states: Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Oklahoma. While no one has died from the virus, the CDC confirmed that 20 individuals have been hospitalized since the outbreak.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that 64% of the cases have been in patients who received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. The CDC, however, defended the vaccine but noted it is not perfect. "We have absolutely no information to suggest there's any problem with the vaccine," commented Julie Gerberding, MD, director of the CDC. "The problem is with the lack of complete coverage with the vaccine."

Beginning in the 1990s, a majority of children received the mumps vaccine in 2 doses. Many young adults, however, have had only one shot. The CDC advised that health care workers and college-age individuals make sure they have had 2 doses.