Herald Journal Columns
April 24, 2006, Herald Journal

Mumps gives officials practice


The mysterious upswing in mumps this spring will give health professionals a chance to practice how they will react if there’s a viral outbreak impervious to immunizations. So far the mumps has been much smaller and less deadly than a flu pandemic. It’s ideal for practicing tracking and containment methods and will be easier to spot problems sooner.

The mumps started in Iowa and then spread up into Minnesota and other midwestern states. It seems to be the same strain that popped up in the UK, but it’s been showing up in college students in Iowa who were on spring break in warm climates. Health officials don’t have a clue where it came from. It seems strange that people who were immunized against it are coming down with mumps now.

I remember when my sister, Deb, and I came down with mumps. Deb’s face swelled up like the Man in the Moon and she ran a high temperature. That was the first and only time the doctor made a house call to our home.

When I had the mumps a few days later, it was only on one side of my face and much less severe. I remember that side was very sore and hurt to lay on it.

I wonder if during the next epidemic health officials will lean over backwards to protect the privacy of contagious victims, as health officials have for AIDS/HIV positive individuals.

Not all, but most of the people who contracted the AIDS virus in the United States did so by being irresponsible in the first place. Yet we are relying on them to do the right thing once they are diagnosed. They are expected to notify those people with whom they have exposed to the virus, and refrain from spreading it further to other people.

At least some of those with AIDS/HIV will lie about their condition to have sex. At least some of those with AIDS/HIV will be bitter, and believe “Misery loves company.” There was a man in New York, for example, who used his AIDS virus as a weapon and infected dozens of people for spite.

He was just as dangerous as a person with Ebola. He should have been quarantined by health officials who knew what he was doing.

Why would a person who is diagnosed with HIV suddenly become responsible and want to protect other people, when he wasn’t before the diagnosis?

I hope when the next big outbreak happens contagious people won’t be responsible for containing the outbreak. I want health officials and disease control experts to use standard disease control methods, such as quarantines, instead of relying on the maturity, altruism and common sense of those who are infected. All it takes is one irresponsible person to make thousands sick.

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