SIOUX CITY | Woodbury County recently recorded its first case of mumps in six years.
Siouxland District Health Department deputy director Tyler Brock said he couldn't provided any details about the case.
More than 290 cases of mumps have been reported in Johnson County, Iowa, since July 12. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the cases are primarily occurring in undergraduate students at the University of Iowa. Another 224 cases of mumps have been reported in other areas of the state.
"There's been a fair amount of mumps across the state," Brock said. "We're not surprised that we've gotten a case when they've had so much of it on the other side of the state."
He said Siouxland District Health Department has assisted eastern Iowa county health departments with mumps cases involving college students who are residents of Woodbury County.
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"Most of the time they've been classified as residents of those counties, just because they were most likely infected at school and they live there 8 to 9 months out of the year," he said.
Mumps is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by droplets of saliva or mucus from the nose, mouth or throat of an infected person. The disease, which causes fever, swollen and tender salivary glands and headache, is typically preventable through vaccination.
Iowa experienced a mumps epidemic in March 2006, when 219 mumps cases were reported. A small outbreak of nine cases occurred in Northwest Iowa in May 2010. Those cases mainly involved students at Dordt College in Sioux Center.
Iowa began mandating two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in 1991. At the time of the 2006 epidemic, a number of college students started kindergarten before 1991 and therefore had only received a single dose of the vaccine.
Anyone who hasn't had two doses of the MMR vaccine is at risk for contracting mumps, which is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The vaccine prevents most, but not all cases of mumps. Eighty-four percent of those who came down with mumps during the 2006 mumps epidemic, which was the largest in the United States in more than 20 years, had had two doses of the MMR vaccine.
University of Iowa students under age 25 are now being urged to receive a third dose of the MMR vaccine.
Vaccine exemptions for children in grades K-12 in Woodbury County have steadily increased over the years, reaching a high of 177 exemptions during the 2013-2014 school year. Last school year, 175 medial and religious exemptions were recorded in the county.
Iowa allows parents to opt out of vaccination for medical or religious reasons. The state doesn't allow a philosophical exemption as some other states do. Iowa rules don't apply to immunization requirements for colleges and universities.
Mandie Mayo, a spokeswoman for Briar Cliff University, said the MMR vaccine is only required for students in health care fields, such as nursing and physical therapy. She said the Sioux City college started educating students about mumps as soon as the eastern Iowa outbreak became known.
"As the virus continues to move closer, we'll continue that education as appropriate to the college campus audience," she said.
Morningside College spokesman Rick Wollman said students taking at least nine hours of classes are required to receive the MMR vaccine.
"It applies to students whether they live on campus or not," he said. "We've got a form that all students have to complete in order to register for classes. That form is kept on file in our student health (center)."
Wollman said Morningside students have been asked to report any contact they might have with anyone infected with mumps to the student health center.