The Texas Department of State Health has issued an advisory alert for mumps, as several cases have been reported in the state. Texas is currently experiencing a 20-year high in mump cases, and state, regional and local health departments are investigating multiple outbreaks sites throughout the state.

One of the outbreak locations is South Padre Island, a popular spring break location for students from across the U.S. According to the Department of State Health, Texas has had 221 mumps cases this year, the largest amount of mumps cases registered since 1994, when 234 were reported. 

Mumps is rarely a deadly disease, but if not treated immediately it can lead to encephalitis, deafness or swelling of the brain. Image credit: SIPSE.

Several mumps cases were linked to South Padre Island in Texas

Mumps cases connected to South Padre Island first emerged this week when another health department contacted the DSHS about a patient who contracted mumps, who had traveled to South Padre Island for spring break. DSHS alerted other states and received reports from 13 other mumps cases from people who moved to the area between March 8 and March 22. The cases involved people from six different states, including two people from Texas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe mumps as a contagious disease caused by a virus. Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the nose, mouth or throat. An infected person can spread the virus to someone else by coughing, sneezing, sharing items such as eating utensils and by touching objects with unwashed hands that are later touched by others.

Mumps is commonly known for the swelling that it causes in a person’s face. Someone who gets mumps can be seen with puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, caused by the swelling of salivary glands. After infection, the symptoms can appear between 12 and 25 days later, and some of the most common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and parotitis (swelling of the salivary glands). The CDC notes that mumps is usually spread before the salivary glands start to swell up and up to five days after the swelling begins.

The DSHS issued the advisory to health care providers and recommended they should consider mumps in patients with similar symptoms and ask them whether they traveled outside the state to South Padre Island from March 8 to March 22. They should also consider that patients got the disease elsewhere, as exposure could have come from several locations.

According to data from the CDC, 2305 mumps cases have been reported so far in the U.S. this year through April 8. The CDC says that although mumps is not a deadly disease, it can lead to serious complications, especially among adults. Some of the complications include swelling of the testicles in males who’ve reached puberty, inflammation of the brain, inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord and inflammation of the ovaries or breast tissue.

Vaccination is key to protecting against mumps

Missouri currently has one of the highest rates for mumps in the United States. In the first three months of 2017 between 100 and 299 cases have been reported in the state.

In 2016, there were 5,311 reported mumps cases in the United States, reaching a decade-high since 2006. The vaccine was introduced in 1967, and before the vaccine, over 186,000 mumps cases were reported yearly nationwide.

Man, shot, vaccine.
According to the CDC, mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. Image credit: Sostre SN News.

“We will see outbreaks from of mumps if someone perhaps travels and brings mumps back with them from a foreign country or in an unvaccinated population,” said Dr. Scott Avery, from Northwest Health Services, according to News Press Now. “You have 10 times the protection against mumps when you have been vaccinated than you do unvaccinated.”

The vaccine protects people against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The vaccine is perfectly safe and should be administered at least twice during a children’s early years (first dose at 12 months of age and second dose at between 4-6 years old). However, teens and adults should also check if they are up to date with their MMR vaccination.

Research has found that the vaccine protects over 88 percent of people who’ve received their entire dose of vaccination. However, seeing as a vaccinated person can still catch the virus, it’s important for everyone to help stop the spread of mumps. Meaning, to cover mouth when coughing or sneezing, to avoid sharing foods and drinks and to wash hands frequently with water and soap.

Seeing that mumps has been escalating over the last two years, some health care providers and officials believe that the third dose of vaccination is needed to bolster immunization patterns. A spokesman for the CDC said that they were investigating the possibility that the protective effect of the MMR vaccine decreases over time.

“The vaccine is excellent for the short term, but after 10 to 15 years, it begins to wane in some people,” said William Schaffner, M.D., and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, according to Tech Times. “It doesn’t go away completely, but just allows them to get mumps… if they are in a particular circumstance.”

Source: Tech Times