Ohio State mumps outbreak could travel

Chris Oaks spoke with Dr. Bill Kose of Blanchard Valley Health System.
Q: The mumps outbreak that started at Ohio State University several weeks ago has now spread beyond campus, with dozens of cases now being reported throughout Franklin County. Are there concerns it could eventually reach northwestern Ohio?
A: The college setting provides a very favorable environment for the spread of a virus like the mumps, with people spending so much time in close quarters such as dormitories.
And, as those students go home for spring break, there is no doubt that some of them will carry the virus back with them, so it is something everyone in the medical community is well aware of and monitoring closely.
Q: I understand characteristics of this particular virus itself complicate the issue.
A: That’s right. The incubation period can be anywhere from two weeks to a month, which means a person can be a carrier without even realizing they have the virus. And by the time a person starts getting ill, the virus itself has already gone looking for a new host.
Q: Is all this the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children, as some have theorized?
A: It’s reasonable to think that it is a contributing factor. No vaccine provides 100 percent immunity. We get the rest of our protection from what we call “herd immunity.”
If I’m 90 percent protected, and everyone else in the group is 90 percent protected, the risk to any individual from the remaining 10 percent is greatly mitigated.
But when one or more of the group haven’t been vaccinated, not only are they not protected, everyone else becomes more vulnerable as well.
Q: A recent study found that half of Americans believe in one or more so-called “medical conspiracy theories,” such as the connection between vaccinations and autism, or that natural cures for life-threatening diseases are being kept from patients because they would hurt the profits of pharmaceutical companies. What do you make of that?
A: I don’t believe in any such conspiracy between the medical community and drug companies. And while vaccinations do carry some risk of side effects, dozens of studies have failed to find a connection to autism.
Many of these theories are spread via the Internet, but accurate and reliable information is also readily available online. I would encourage people to do their due diligence and find out the facts.
Q: That same study pointed out that these misguided beliefs are concerning because it can lead to a breakdown of trust in the doctor-patient relationship. Is that a valid concern?
A: Absolutely. I know of pediatricians who refuse to treat children if their parents refuse to vaccinate, just like some doctors who tell smokers they’ll have to find another physician if they refuse to quit.
I’m not saying it’s right, but I understand the mindset. Patients have to have trust that their doctors are giving them the best care possible, and doctors have to trust patients to follow their instructions.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at chrisoaks@wfin.com, or at 419-422-4545.

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