The symptoms were familiar, but Bethe Price couldn’t figure out how her son could have a disease he’d been immunized for.
As KSL News reports, it began when 11-year-old Finn Price from Heber City, Utah began feeling intense pain in his jaw.
“My jaw really, really hurt. Chewing a lot of harder, crunchy foods was out of the question. The fever didn’t help at all,” Finn Price told Fox 13. He added, “I would consider this the worst sickness I’ve had.”
But the surprise illness left his parents mystified. Dad Kyle told KSL that at first, they thought it couldn’t be serious:
“Finn was complaining that his jaw hurt. And we just thought he wanted to stay up later.”
Meanwhile, Bethe remembered looking at Finn’s swollen jaw the next morning and thinking it looked like the mumps. But as the mom told KSL, she immediately dismissed that possibility:
“I think he has the mumps! But he’s been fully immunized so that would surprise me.”
Kyle took his son to the pediatrician, and even the doctor didn’t come up with a diagnosis of mumps.
“She said it was a blocked salivary gland,” Kyle told ABC4.
In fact, it was only because Bethe asked for a blood test that they would eventually find out what caused her son’s illness.
In the meantime, Finn took his medicine and began to feel better within just a few days. In fact, the fifth-grader was already back in school when the results of the blood test came back. Finn’s teacher was the one who told him that he’d had the mumps.
Because Finn had received two doses of the MMR vaccine, his parents didn’t think it was possible for him to get the mumps. However, as Rich Larkin of the Utah Department of Health told ABC 4, vaccination doesn’t guarantee total immunity:
“The immune system is so complicated so to make something 100 percent of the population is going to respond to is impossible.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two doses of the MMR vaccine reduce the chance of getting mumps by 88 percent. A single dose of the vaccine reduces the risk of mumps by 78 percent. Because mumps outbreaks still occur, the CDC recommends being up to date on the MMR vaccine, as it can help limit the scope and duration of the outbreak.
Though experts don’t know why those who have been vaccinated can still get mumps, being vaccinated decreases the severity of symptoms and chance of complications. According to the CDC, mumps is spread through the saliva or mucus of an infected person via coughing, sneezing, talking, sharing items like utensils or cups, or touching surfaces with unwashed hands.
Those with mumps are contagious before the symptoms appear and can remain so for five days afterward. Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, swollen glands (under the jaw or ears), and loss of appetite. Complications can include meningitis, encephalitis, and deafness.
When Finn’s parents learned he had the mumps, they wanted to make sure that others knew and had the chance to protect themselves.
“If it was someone else, I would want to know,” Bethe told KSL.
Bethe and Kyle are also urging parents to be sure their children have been vaccinated. Kyle told Fox 13:
“I don’t see the point in not having immunizations.”
“Definitely get your kids immunized. We’ll keep doing that, for sure,” Bethe agreed.