Mumps has been in the headlines lately, and for a good reason. We are in the midst of a significant outbreak in several areas of our state, and cases of mumps have recently shown up in Northeast Arkansas. Here are a few facts about this disease:
- Mumps is a viral illness spread by coughing and salivary contact. It is present throughout the world and is uncommon in the USA because we immunize for it. The virus infects our respiratory tract and salivary glands, lasts for several days, and usually resolves without complications. After a 2-3 week incubation period, children and adults typically develop cough and congestion, sometimes fever and headache, and about two thirds have salivary gland inflammation with tender, firm swelling over one or both cheeks. When it is suspected, mumps can be tested with a cheek swab – the result may take several days.
- Thought the disease is usually relatively mild and self-limited, it can cause occasional severe complications including swollen testicles in adolescent or adult males, viral meningitis, encephalitis, arthritis, or other glandular inflammation. For women in early pregnancy, there may be a slight increased risk of spontaneous miscarriages.
- There is no specific treatment for mumps, so the only effective approaches are containment and prevention. Infected children can pass on the virus well before, and for about 1 week after the symptoms show up, so isolation of sick or highly susceptible individuals is important. Mumps vaccine is part of every child’s routine immunization regimen and is usually given at 1 and 4 years of age. Most, but not all children who’ve had both doses are fully immune.
More information, including detailed isolation advice, is presented in a recent Arkansas Department of Health Newsletter (see below), and you may feel free to contact us if you have questions or concerns.