made an official recommendation for one dose of mumps vaccine for all children at any age after 12 months in 1977. In 1989, children began receiving two doses of mumps vaccine because of the implementation of a two-dose measles vaccination policy using the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) vaccine. In 2006, a two-dose mumps vaccine policy was recommended for school-aged children, students at post high school educational institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers.Mumps vaccine has had a profound impact on the annual incidence of mumps in the US. In 1968 more than 152,000 cases reported, while in 2003 only 231 cases were reported. Recently, however, the nation has witnessed a resurgence of the disease, and an apparently ongoing outbreak of mumps in the National Hockey League (NHL) illustrates how the mumps virus continues to circulate in the general population. The NHL outbreak has, so far, affected 15 players on five teams, and another three cases are suspected. A timeline of events surrounding the cases suggests the outbreak originated in October.
Doni Bloomfield wrote an article this week (which also contains "mumps on ice" in the title) that, in one vivid passage, illustrates potential infection pathways for mumps virus in professional hockey. Bloomfield quotes James Conway of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health:
You watch these guys taking a big hit up against the boards, there’s snot and boogers and all sorts of stuff flying around as the guy gets hit hard enough, so I don’t think it would surprise me at all that there’s some transmission just by stuff flying around during the games. It’s a sloppy, messy sport.That's colorful imagery for sure, but in addition to how, it's important to ask why this and other recent outbreaks are occurring. Mumps is, after all, a vaccine preventable disease.
It's possible that this group of players belongs to a demographic that has lower vaccine coverage, potentially due to parental reticence to vaccinate. However, at least one player is known to have had two doses of vaccine: one childhood dose, consistent with ACIP guidelines in the late 1980s, and another in preparation for foreign travel in February of 2014. Tara Haelle wrote an article recently on the mumps vaccine in which she quotes Paul Offit discussing the rate of waning immunity associated with this vaccine. Offit notes that
If you look at the three [MMR component] vaccines, measles and rubella induce larger memory in B and T cells . . . They have longer lasting immunity. Mumps is the weak sister of the three. You start to see vulnerability 10 years after the first dose and 10 years after the second dose.Waning vaccine-associated immunity could thus play a role in this outbreak, and in potential future ones as well. Boosters have been used to compensate for waning immunity in past mumps outbreaks. Might a third dose of vaccine be appropriate for the general population at some point in the future?
(image source: CDC)