Research and Reports
All states should require that children be immunized against the mumps virus before entering school, says a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the study, which appeared in the May 7 issue of the journal, 20 states do not require such immunization as a condition for starting school.
Of the 30 states with laws on the matter, 15 require only children entering school for the first time to be immunized, while the other 15 have requirements applying to older pupils as well. Of the latter states, the study found, 13 "require proof of mumps immunity for grades K through 12.''
Whether states with limited mumps-immunization laws need to expand them to include higher grade levels depends on the number of mumps outbreaks their schools experience, according to William Parkin, one of the study's five authors.
In New Jersey, for example, the study found that a more comprehensive mumps-vaccination law could have limited the size of a 1983 outbreak of the illness, in which six schools in the Egg Harbor School District reported 63 cases between Oct. 19 and Dec. 14. More than half of the cases occurred among children in grades 6 and above.
The New Jersey law, passed in 1978, required vaccination only for children 7 years old and younger, the study notes, which meant that only students in grades K-5 had been affected by it in 1983.
The study concludes that the outbreak resulted from the older children's susceptibility to the disease due to lack of immunization, rather than from poor compliance with the state's immunization law.
While the vast majority of teen-agers have heard of acquired immune deficiency syndrome and know it can be spread through sexual intercourse, most sexually active teen-agers do not take preventive measures to avoid being exposed to the AIDS virus, a new study of youths in Massachusetts indicates.
The study, published in the May issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was based on a survey of 829 teen-agers between the ages of 16 and 19.
Although 96 percent of the respondents said they had heard of AIDS, only 15 percent of those who were sexually active said they had changed their sexual behavior to avoid getting the disease. Of those who said they had changed their sexual habits, only 10 percent said they had begun to use condoms and 10 percent said they were abstaining from sex.
Fifty-four percent of the teen-agers polled said they were worried about contracting the disease.
"The confusion and misconceptions about the disease may mean that even among the highest-risk groups a substantial minority do not even know what sexual and drug precautions are necessary to avoid transmission of the virus,'' the study concludes. The authors recommend that more school-based AIDS-education programs be developed to "counter the misinformation and confusion about AIDS.''
The researchers noted that many teen-agers were confused about how the AIDS virus is transmitted. Of the respondents, 8 percent did not know that having sex was one way of contracting the disease. Twenty-two percent did not know that the virus can be transmitted by semen, and 29 percent were unaware that it can be transmitted by vaginal fluids.