Texas is experiencing its biggest outbreak of the mumps in 22 years, with 221 cases reported. The state’s public health officials are advising health care professionals to be on the lookout for the virus.
The mumps is a contagious disease caused by a viral infection. The first symptoms to show are a fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. After a few days, salivary glands swell, which will lead to puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.
The virus is spread by close person-to-person contact. It is important to keep in mind that a person is contagious for about 3 or 4 days before the infection shows symptoms.
Public health officials have reported nearly 2,000 cases of the mumps across 42 states and the District of Columbia since January of this year. That number is on track to double last year’s total outbreaks, leaving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerned about the drastic increase in cases.
CDC spokesman Ian Branam says while people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks, some cases can be more serious. “It can cause complications, especially in adults, such as meningitis or inflammation of the testicles in males who have reached puberty,” Branam said. In rare cases, this can lead to infertility.
Mumps can be prevented with an MMR vaccine, which protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella. The CDC recommends children get two doses of the vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months and the second dose at 4 to 6 years.
The cause for the recent rise in cases is still under investigation. The CDC is looking into the following factors:
- The disease spreads more easily in crowded settings such as college campuses.
- The mumps vaccine may not always work.
- The vaccine’s effect may decrease over time.
Public health officials are also examining ways to decrease the diseases’s spread.
Photo: NIAID, CC-BY
Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.