Mumps is not a common disease in the United States any longer thanks to vaccinations; however, outbreaks still occur including an increased number of cases in 2016 with 45 states reporting cases.
Widespread vaccinations against mumps helped to drop the average number of cases in the United States, 186,000 annually before 1967, to anywhere from a few hundred cases to just over 2,300 cases reported this year, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two outbreaks in 2016 in university communities in Illinois and Iowa led to increased vaccination campaigns to squelch the number of infected. Close living environments, like dormitories, can factor into an outbreak of mumps as well as participating in behaviors that exchange saliva like kissing and sharing eating utensils.
Mumps, caused by a virus, affects the salivary glands and can cause tell-tale swelling of glands leading to enlarged cheeks and a swollen, tender jaw area. Other common symptoms are fever, headache, and muscle aches. “There is no specific treatment for mumps other than time and patience,” Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease said. “In rare instances, mumps can affect the brain potentially causing long term damage. Mumps is also known to cause sterility in men, although this complication is very uncommon.”
Children are protected from mumps by a series of MMR vaccinations given in early childhood. The vaccine prevents most cases of mumps, measles and rubella. Side effects to the vaccine are mild when they do occur. Check children’s vaccination schedules to ensure they are up to date.
“Currently there is debate as to whether all adults should be revaccinated because it appears that protection from the vaccine may decline over time,” Dowell said. “No policies have been finalized except in the outbreaks described above.”
Preventing the spread of mumps is like any other contagious disease. Avoid sharing eating utensils, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash hands frequently with soap and water.