Mumps Outbreak What You Need to Know

In the last few weeks, parents across the U.S. have been alerted of several mumps outbreaks on college campuses and other school settings. What’s quickly becoming one of the largest outbreaks of mumps in the last 10 years, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting more than 4,200 cases nationwide, with nearly 2,000 cases reported in Arkansas alone. As of yet, no cases have been reported in Louisiana.

Although these are frightening numbers, parents should not think that the mumps vaccine does not work. The vaccine is 88 percent effective when the recommended two doses are given. People who have been vaccinated may still develop mumps, but likely a milder form.

However, when comparing the numbers of cases in the 1980s to the era before the vaccine became commonplace, there has been a decrease from hundreds of thousands of cases per year to a few hundred per year—a 99 percent decrease in mumps cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Mumps is a viral infection that typically manifests as fever, headaches, fatigue, achiness, and painful swelling of the salivary glands beneath the jaw.

Some people who have been infected with the viruses may have mild or no symptoms. More serious complications, although rare, can include meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and hearing loss.

Mumps is highly contagious and can spread quickly, which is why it is so common on college campuses and in schools. Public health experts believe that the recent surge may be explained by waning immunity and are looking into the “whys and hows.” We hope to soon learn about new vaccine recommendations.

Here are the important facts you need to know:

  • The mumps virus is present in saliva and mucus from the mouth or nose. It is spread by coughing, sneezing, sharing eating utensils and contact with contaminated hands and surfaces.
  • Symptoms may not develop for up to a month after one has been exposed to the virus although usually manifest in two weeks. Persons with mumps may spread the virus days before the well-known jaw swelling appears.
  • There is no treatment for mumps. Bed rest, fever and pain relieving medications; and application of warm packs to the swollen areas are helpful in relieving the symptoms.
  • The most effective way to prevent mumps is vaccination with the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). The MMR vaccine is safe and there is no evidence that it causes autism. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for children.
  • If your child has been exposed to someone with mumps and has not been fully vaccinated against mumps, it is recommended that they receive the vaccine as soon as possible. If they are unable to receive the vaccine for medical, religious or personal reasons, they will be required to stay at home for at least 26 days. If the vaccine is given, they may return to school immediately.
  • If your child has been diagnosed with mumps, please limit exposure to others. In addition, they will be recommended to stay at home for five days from the time that the jaw swelling began.
  • Washing hands with soap and water and other good health practices (covering your cough and sneeze) are important in preventing the spread of mumps.

To learn more about mumps or further questions about the outbreak, click here.

About Dr. Uzodi

Dr. Uzodi is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. She completed a pediatric infectious disease Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, and is Board Certified in pediatrics and pediatric infec