Mumps can be prevented with routine vaccintions
Les Riess, M.D.
It's been a long time since the mumps were in the news, but recent outbreaks of the disease in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest have people talking and reporters writing.
The Center for Disease Control reported that as of April 20, over 1,100 cases of mumps had been confirmed with more being expected in the coming weeks. Of the reported cases, most occurred in Iowa, with other cases reported in Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Oklahoma. This is the largest outbreak since routine mumps vaccination started in the United States in 1967.
Mumps used to be a common childhood illness in the United States. Since widespread immunization began in 1967, the number of cases dropped dramatically. In 2002, for instance, only 270 cases were reported.
Mumps is a virus
The disease typically has an incubation period from two to three weeks. Usually infected people are contagious up to a week before their first symptoms appear, and remain contagious for another week to 10 days.
Some people may have mumps and not even know it because they experience no symptoms. Most people, however, do feel the effects of the mumps virus. Symptoms, which last about 10 days, include swelling and pain in one or both of the parotid glands, which are located between the ear and jaw. One or both cheeks may appear swollen. Although this is considered the classic symptom of mumps, only about 30 to 40 percent of people with the disease experience this swelling. A person with mumps may also have an elevated body temperature (from 101 to 104 degrees F), headache, earache, sore throat, pain when opening the mouth or eating sour foods, tiredness, muscle and joint aches, poor appetite, and vomiting. Men may experience swollen and painful testicles.
If you or someone in your household has the mumps, contact your local health department to report the disease. If you visit your doctor, he or she will report it for you. This ensures that accurate records are kept regarding prevalence of the disease.
While most people recover fully from the mumps, complications requiring hospitalization can occur. Rare but serious complications include deafness, sterility, pancreatitis, encephalitis, and miscarriage. Contact your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of a stiff neck or severe headache, painful, tender testicles, or abdominal pain.
Adults born before 1957 are considered immune to the mumps. Adults born after 1957 who had the disease during childhood are also immune.
When it comes to the mumps, the best offense is a good defense in the form of following routine vaccination recommendations. If you or your children need to update your immunizations, or if you have questions about the status of your immunizations, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Dr. Riess is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.