Mumps, a contagious virus, is rising problem in the U.S. once again. Thanks to a vaccine against the virus, mumps was not a threat to U.S. citizens. However, in the past several years, more and more college students have started getting the mumps again. This year marks the highest spike in a decade. Seven states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, New York, Massachusetts and have reported more than 100 cases in this year alone.
As of the first part of December, more than 4,000 cases across most of the United States and the District of Columbia have been reported for the year. Arkansas has been the hardest hit with most of the cases coming out of schools, workplaces, and colleges. In 2010, there were over 2,500 cases reported and in 2012 there 229 cases.
Mumps is a viral and highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache, and tiredness. This is followed by a painful swelling of one or both of the parotid salivary glands. Symptoms last 16 to 18 days after being exposed and resolve seven to ten days. A fraction of the people with mumps has mild or no symptoms. Complications of the disease include permanent deafness, brain infections, pancreatitis, and painful testicular swelling, which can lead to infertility. Women may develop swollen ovaries, but the condition does not increase the risk of infertility. Mumps spreads quickly among those who live in the same home. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with an infected person or respiratory droplets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the mumps patients received their recommended doses for the combined vaccine of measles-mumps-rubella. One theory of the mumps outbreak could be the effectiveness of the vaccine which could lessen over 10 to 15 years. But the mystery as to why 2016 has seen so many mumps cases remains. Janell Routh, a medical officer in the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, believes that the sudden increase of mumps is cyclical. Speaking to Scientific American, she said that “mumps cases wax and wane over the year.” The spike in mumps cases was “driven by three large outbreaks,” she went on to say. Researchers need to study whether the vaccine “works less well over time,” Routh said.
The CDC stated that the mumps virus had not mutated nor has the virus been imported by unwitting travelers or students. During the outbreak, the CDC is considering whether a third dose of the vaccine is recommended. In the meantime, parents should ask their pediatricians to make sure their children are up to date on their immunizations.
By Cheryl Werber