NORMAL — Mumps cases continue to spread in McLean County as two Normal high schools have seen outbreaks this week.
The McLean County Health Department says that Normal West and University high schools have both seen enough increased mumps activity to be moved to outbreak status.
"(Both high schools) have three or more confirmed cases of mumps linked to their campuses," the health department said. "At both schools, letters are being sent to all students, faculty, and staff who have been identified as close contacts to the individuals with mumps."
The high school outbreaks run the county's total to 21 confirmed mumps cases in McLean County, with additional tests pending. Individuals with confirmed mumps virus tests remain in the 15 to 54 age range, with the biggest concentration among those between the ages of 15 and 20.
"It is evident ... that mumps is widespread and affecting all the schools in some capacity in our community," said Melissa Graven, communicable disease expert for the county. "At this point, beyond stressing the importance of making sure residents are fully vaccinated with two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, we are turning our focus to identifying those most susceptible to mumps in our schools and universities."
McLean County's mumps outbreak is part of a statewide outbreak that had escalled to 200 cases Friday, most of which have been in Champaign County. The University of Illinois-centered outbreak, which local health officials have been trying to keep in check by mass-vaccinating UI students and staff with an extra measles/mumps/rubella shot, had grown to 134 mumps cases Friday.
Graven said McLean County wants to limit the impact on those who cannot receive the vaccinations due to medical reasons by working with the schools on how best to protect the most vulnerable.
The health department again urges preventative steps to avoid getting the mumps. Those include avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick; not sharing drinks, eating utensils or cigarettes with others; washing or sanitizing hands frequently; and cleaning frequently-touched surfaces regularly with soap and water or with cleaning wipes.
Hygiene is particularly important as health department director Walt Howe said most of the positive McLean County cases are in people that are fully vaccinated.
"When you see mumps outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations, it can be a bit confusing; but, it should not be interpreted as meaning the vaccine doesn't work," Howe said. "In general, a person who has had both doses of MMR vaccine is about nine times less likely to get mumps than someone who has had no MMR vaccinations."
The McLean County Health Department said they will continue to monitor this situation and work together with school and healthcare providers as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Residents experiencing symptoms of mumps are strongly encouraged to isolate from other people and contact their healthcare provider to be tested for mumps if they develop swollen salivary glands, ovaries, or testicles.
Jerry Nowicki is editor of the LeRoy/Farmer City Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit leroyfcpress.com.