Topeka Amid a mumps outbreak, health officials Monday showed off an Internet-based immunization registry to make sure Kansans don't miss vaccinations against such diseases.
The system is 10 months old and allows its users - mostly local health departments for now - to check people's vaccination records, even if they move or change physicians. It's part of a larger effort to boost Kansas' relatively low childhood immunization rates.
The goal is to persuade all of Kansas' 99 local health departments, plus private clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices, to register vaccinations in the system dubbed KSWebIZ. So far, 36 health departments and a handful of private offices and clinics are participating.
Officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Shawnee County Health Agency had a news conference as part of National Infant Immunization Week. But it came as health officials worry about a growing number of mumps cases in Midwestern states, including Kansas.
Dr. Howard Rodenberg, director of KDHE's health division, said one issue in the mumps outbreak is that some Kansans had only one vaccination before entering school, or none at all. Doctors and public health officials recommend two doses of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella before a child enters school.
Rodenberg said he can't say whether Kansas would have fewer mumps cases had KSWebIZ been in place earlier.
"I do think we would have a much better handle on those who got immunized and who didn't, which would help us to get a better assessment of the pattern of disease and maybe help us to have more effective interventions," Rodenberg said.
As of Monday, Kansas reported 227 confirmed or probable cases of mumps in 32 counties. In a typical year, Kansas sees only a few cases; in 2005, there were none.
But the mumps outbreak isn't the only reason for KDHE to publicize the registry.
A report issued last month noted that in 2004, Kansas ranked 43rd among states in the percentage of children under 3 who have received proper vaccinations, at less than 78 percent. The report was commissioned by a new public-private effort to boost vaccination rates.
KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby noted that for years, doctors have recorded shots in pink booklets that parents were supposed to keep at home. He said that method worked - as long as parents didn't lose the booklet or a child's school or doctor didn't change.
"Years ago, we realized that there was a better way to track immunizations," Bremby said.
So far, Shawnee County's is the largest local health department to participate in the registry program. The state estimates about 557,000 Kansans have 1.9 million vaccinations logged on the system.
"As people move from county to county, those records aren't lost," said Anne Freeze, the Shawnee County agency's director.
But Rodenberg acknowledged the system won't work as well as it can until all health departments and many private offices participate.
"Some of the issues are related to computer capabilities," Rodenberg said. "Some of it, too, is just the newness of the product. As a new product comes on board, there's always some people who lead; there are many more people who are going to follow."
Mumps on rise
Mumps cases in Douglas County continue to increase, according to numbers released by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department Monday.
According to the department, 111 cases of mumps both confirmed and probable have been reported in the county.
Cases in the state have increased as well, with 227 cases reported in 32 counties, according to the Kansas Department of Heath and Environment.
The state is also investigating another 35 patients suspected of having the disease.