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On Point with RISD Director of Health Services Sharon Simpson

January 20, 2017

In recent weeks, the Dallas-Fort Worth media has covered emerging cases of the mumps in and around the North Texas region. While there has been no case of mumps reported in Richardson ISD, On Point sat down with Sharon Simpson, the district’s Director of Health Services, to learn about the illness and RISD’s response should mumps be reported on one of our campuses.

What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious viral infection that affects the salivary glands below and in front of the ears. It is spread by infected saliva through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing food or drink and touching contaminated surfaces.

How do symptoms present? Are there differences in how mumps appear in adults versus children?
It’s possible to have no symptoms at all, but many people have symptoms associated with fevers such as body aches, chills, loss of appetite and fatigue. It is common to also have swollen salivary glands that results in a swelling of the neck around the ears. These symptoms are common in adults as well as children.

What harmful effects have been associated with the illness?
There have been documented complications such as inflammation of the joints, testicles, ovaries, and rarely encephalitis and meningitis. Also, in rare cases, mumps can cause hearing loss.

What steps are our campuses taking, in terms of monitoring or preparedness?
Mumps is a vaccine-preventable disease and is required by the state of Texas for school attendance. As a result, our school nurses not only monitor and maintain records regarding student compliance of required vaccines, but also assist the families in finding resources to get the needed vaccines at low- or no cost.

What is RISD’s protocol if mumps is reported on a campus?
The state of Texas has very specific guidelines and protocols to follow if a suspected case of mumps has been identified in one of our schools. Mumps is a reportable disease which means that as soon as we are aware of a suspected case of mumps, a report is given to Dallas County Health and Human Services. When a suspected case has been identified, we have a notification letter that is sent out to members of that campus community.

When there is a resurgence of an illness like we’re seeing here with mumps, the subject of uninoculated students comes up. What is RISD’s stance on this topic?
We honor those parents who choose not to have their students vaccinated in accordance with Texas law. There are some requirements, however, that parents must complete in order to obtain the exemption status. Our nurses monitor the students who are not vaccinated due to a vaccine exemption such as conscientious objection, a religious belief or a medical exemption.

In the event of a case of any vaccine-preventable disease in our schools, the nurses not only send out the notification letter, but also call each unvaccinated student’s parents to make personal contact and advise them of the suspected case. We are also advised by the Office of Dallas County Health and Human Services regarding the need to exclude unvaccinated students until the illness is no longer a concern for the campus since they are particularly vulnerable to this communicable disease.

What can parents do to be partners in keeping their students healthy?
Parents being active and engaged in their children’s school has benefits on many levels. They can help by teaching and re-enforcing the following:

Cover coughs and sneezes.
Keep hands clean and away from the face.
Wash hands after visiting the bathroom and before eating.
Do not share food or drink.

Parents should also keep their child home if they are ill to help prevent the spread of illnesses, especially if they have a fever.

Sharon Simpson, MSN, RN is the Director of Health Services for RISD
She has worked in the District for 23 years, including serving as a school nurse at both the elementary and high school levels. For 20 years, she served not only as a school nurse but also as the Lake Highlands Area Nursing Supervisor.

Mrs. Simpson received her BSN from Baylor University and a MSN from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Prior to coming to RISD, she worked in an emergency room and coronary care unit at a local hospital. She is married, with three grown sons who are Berkner High School graduates.