LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Some Arkansas lawmakers have criticized the state’s policy of removing unvaccinated students from school during an outbreak as mumps is spreading in the northwest part of the state.
At a meeting of the state House and Senate Public Health committees Monday, some said it’s unfair that previously unvaccinated children can return to school immediately after receiving a vaccine, even though the vaccine doesn’t become fully effective until two weeks after it’s been administered.
Republican state Rep. Jana Della Rosa said “Right now it seems like a punishment to these (unvaccinated) kids,” according to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2ckP8aV ).
Republican state Sen. Missy Irvin said parents who signed vaccine exemption forms shouldn’t be surprised when their child is removed from school during an outbreak.
Arkansas Department of Health director Nate Smith says the agency is following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. As of Monday afternoon, the number of suspected or confirmed cases had grown to 98.
“We’re not making this stuff up as we go along,” Smith said. “We’re using what has been successful in many other settings.”
Smith said those who have been vaccinated can still get mumps, but vaccinating at least 86 percent of students in a school is considered essential to stopping the spread of the virus. All of the students who have confirmed cases of mumps were vaccinated.
Most of the cases have been in Springdale, but cases have also been confirmed in Rogers and there are potential cases in Fayetteville, Huntsville and West Fork. Smith said the outbreak appears to have started after an out-of-state resident caught the virus in Iowa and then traveled to Arkansas, where it was passed on to another adult before the virus spread to children.
Mumps is a viral infection that causes swelling in the salivary glands and cheeks and may include headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and low-grade fevers.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com