A U.S. warship, the USS Fort McHenry, has been kept at sea for more than two months due to an outbreak of parotitis, which is swelling of one or both of the salivary glands. Parotitis can be caused by both viruses and bacteria, with bacterial parotitis most commonly associated with Staphlococcus aureous infections.1 The parotitis outbreak on the military ship is reported to be viral. Viral parotitis is commonly seen during mumps infection.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Mumps usually involves pain, tenderness and swelling in one or both parotid salivary glands (cheek and jaw area).”2 In other words, the most common clinical manifestation of mumps is swelling of the salivary glands — the same as occurs during parotitis.
Not only can viral parotitis be caused by the paramyxovirus virus mumps,3 but “The mumps virus is the only cause of epidemic parotitis in humans,” according to a study published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.4 That being said, individual cases of viral parotitis can also be caused by other viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus, coxsackievirus, influenza A and parainfluenza viruses.5
It’s interesting to note, though, that CNN, which first reported on the outbreak, describes the situation as “an outbreak of a viral infection similar to mumps.”6
What Is Parotitis?
Parotitis is inflammation of the parotid salivary gland, which can be acute or chronic. Bacterial parotitis occurs most often in infants, the elderly, people with chronic diseases or following surgery. Dehydration can also be a predisposing cause. Viral parotitis, however, is more common worldwide, with mumps being the most common cause in children.7
In some countries, such as Korea, the symptoms of parotitis are used to diagnose mumps in children, although research suggests that some of these cases of “mumps” may actually be related to other respiratory viruses other than the mumps virus, including Epstein-Barr virus, herpesvirus, adenovirus and others.8
In the case of the military ship outbreak, 25 sailors and marines aboard the USS Fort McHenry were diagnosed with parotitis, causing the warship to remain at sea for two months in the Persian Gulf region. The U.S. Fifth Fleet told CNN that none of the cases are life-threatening and all of those affected are expected to make a full recovery (or already have).9
Is the Parotitis ‘Outbreak’ Actually a Vaccine Reaction?
Another interesting development reported by CNN is, “All 703 military personnel aboard the ship have received measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) booster vaccinations, according to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet headquartered in Bahrain.”10 It’s possible, then, that the parotitis experienced by some of the fleet could actually be a vaccine reaction.
In their information sheet of observed vaccine reactions for the MMR vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that parotitis is one such reaction, which typically occurs 10 to 14 days after vaccination. They further state:11
“Generally, the rates for mild events appear to differ little between strains. For instance, parotid and/or submaxillary swelling occurred in 1.6 percent of children who received Jeryl Lynn vaccine and 1 to 2 percent of those who received Urabe vaccine.
Data from post-marketing surveillance in Canada, however, have shown a much higher rate of parotitis with the Urabe strain than with the Jeryl Lynn strain.”
Mumps Vaccine Doesn’t Work
About 94 percent of U.S. children entering kindergarten3 have received two doses of MMR vaccine,12,13 as have 92 percent of school children ages 13 to 17 years.14,15 In some states, the MMR vaccination rate is approaching 100 percent.16
Despite this, mumps outbreaks still occur, with a few hundred cases reported in the U.S. every year. However, cases appear to be on the rise, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating:17
“From 2015 to 2017, the U.S. saw a range of different mumps outbreak settings and sizes. Cases started to increase in late 2015. From January 2016 to June 2017, health departments reported 150 outbreaks (9,200 cases), including households, schools, universities, athletics teams and facilities, church groups, workplaces and large parties and events.”
There was also a multistate mumps outbreak in the U.S. in 2006, which involved mainly college students in the Midwest and included more than 6,500 cases.18
In this case, most of those affected had received two doses of the MMR vaccine19 — so it’s quite clear the MMR vaccine does not work as well as advertised in preventing mumps, even after most children in the U.S. have gotten two doses of MMR for several decades.
Public health officials have known about the problem with mumps vaccine ineffectiveness since at least 2006, but again in 2014, researchers investigated a mumps outbreak among a group of students in Orange County, New York.
Of the more than 2,500 who had received two doses of MMR vaccine, 13 percent developed mumps20 — more than double the number you’d expect were the vaccine to actually have a 95 percent efficacy.
The CDC also states that you can still get mumps even if you’ve been vaccinated, noting “people who previously had one or two doses of MMR vaccine can get mumps too. Experts aren’t sure why vaccinated people still get mumps; it could be that their immune system didn’t respond as well as it should have to the vaccine. Or their immune system’s ability to fight the infection decreased over time.”21
Whistleblower Case Going on for Almost 10 Years
In 2010, two Merck virologists filed a federal lawsuit under the False Claims Act against their former employer, alleging the vaccine maker lied about the effectiveness of their mumps vaccine. The whistleblowers, Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, claimed they witnessed “firsthand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine’s efficacy findings.”22
They charged that Merck used improper testing techniques, manipulated testing methodology, abandoned undesirable test results, falsified test data and failed to adequately investigate and report the diminished efficacy of its mumps vaccine.
They also claim Merck falsely verified that each manufacturing lot of mumps vaccine would be as effective as identified in the labeling, falsely certified the accuracy of applications filed with the FDA, falsely certified compliance with the terms of the CDC purchase contract and mislabeled, misbranded and falsely certified its mumps vaccine, among other violations.
Merck allegedly falsified the data to hide the fact that the mumps vaccine in the MMR shot has significantly declined in effectiveness. By artificially inflating the mumps vaccine efficacy, Merck was able to continue selling MMR vaccine in the U.S. and maintain its monopoly over the mumps vaccine market in the U.S. and other nations that purchase Merck’s MMR vaccine. The complaint alleged:23
“As the largest single purchaser of childhood vaccines (accounting for more than 50 percent of all vaccine purchases), the United States is by far the largest financial victim of Merck’s fraud … But the ultimate victims here are the millions of children who every year are being injected with a mumps vaccine that is not providing them with an adequate level of protection.”
Merck filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was subsequently denied. So far, the U.S. government has declined to intervene in the case, but did file a Statement of Interest in response to Merck’s motion to dismiss, which suggests they have a “strong interest in the outcome,” according to Keller Grover LLP, which represents the whistleblowers in this case.24 For now, the case remains pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Third Dose of MMR Vaccine Recommended
In 1977, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended only one dose of mumps vaccine for children aged 12 months and older.
Then, in response to multiple measles outbreaks that occurred in the 1980s, ACIP recommended two doses of MMR vaccine in 1989,25 a recommendation that continues to this day. The CDC currently recommends that children get two doses of MMR vaccine; the first dose is recommended between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second dose between 4 and 6 years.
The MMR vaccine continues to fail, especially in providing long-lasting vaccine acquired artificial immunity to mumps. So the ACIP formed a mumps work group to discuss whether a third MMR vaccine should be added to the U.S. childhood vaccine schedule. In 2018, they announced they had “reviewed the available evidence and determined that a third dose of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and effective at preventing mumps.”
Public health officials recommended the third dose of MMR vaccine for those deemed at increased risk of developing mumps because of an outbreak, which they noted would apply to those in prolonged, close-contact settings, even where coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine is high. Even then, they noted that the third dose of MMR vaccine has “at least a short-term benefit for persons in outbreak settings.”26
Adding yet another dose of an already failing vaccine seems highly questionable, however, especially in light of evidence that its effectiveness may have been exaggerated to begin with.
Further, the second dose is intended to produce immunity in the proportion of people who fail to respond to the first dose. While there is an assumption that getting a second “booster” dose of MMR will “boost” immunity to the diseases, this may or may not be the case.
Provided a person has already responded to the first MMR vaccination, there is a question about whether a second or third dose will give a “boost” in vaccine-acquired immunity that is long-lasting.
According to the CDC, “Although some persons who develop normal antibody titers in response to a single dose of MMR vaccine will develop higher antibody titers to the three component vaccines when administered a second dose of vaccine, these increased antibody levels typically do not persist.”27
Parotitis Is the Most Frequent Adverse Reaction Following MMR Vaccine
Circling back to the possibility that the military parotitis outbreak may actually be an outbreak of adverse reactions to the MMR vaccine, a 2011 study found parotitis to be a frequent adverse event reported following MMR vaccine and occurred in nearly 2 percent of recipients.28 Meanwhile, mumps itself is often not serious, with the vast majority of people recovering completely within two weeks without complications.
According to the CDC, some people who get mumps have only mild, cold-like symptoms or have no symptoms at all and may not even know they have the disease.29 Clearly there is far more that needs to be understood about mumps infection, parotitis and the MMR vaccine before a third dose becomes a routine recommendation.