When I wrote a piece last winter on Measles, I did not think I’d be writing again so soon about what physicians used to call another common childhood ailment, the Mumps. Measles aren’t funny… and neither are Mumps. Both measles and mumps have become relatively less common than in the 1950s and 1960s, because, today, young children are vaccinated with the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccines and physicians encourage parents and caregivers to have children in their care vaccinated for these diseases in order to retard their spread to the larger community. But occasionally these diseases reappear!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC) says that mumps cases appear each year with the reports of a few hundred incidences compared with what used to be about 186,000 cases in the U.S. annually.1 The CDC also reflects that in some years, mumps outbreaks are worse than others.2 The viral disease typically shows up in the winter or spring months of the year. Crowded venues where there could be close proximity with carriers, in places such as sports, school and church gatherings, can foster the spread of the infection.
According to the CDC, from January 1 to April 18, 2014, 332 cases of mumps have been documented and many of these have occurred at Ohio State University’s college campus (162 cases) and at Fordham University’s college campus.3
Mumps is commonly spread by communicating drops of saliva to others when sneezing, coughing, touching hands to mouth–and then touching others, kissing, talking, and by using glassware, cups or drink cans that others with mumps have used! According to physicians, most mumps transmissions occur before glands begin to swell and within five days after swelling begins, thus CDC advises that patients who have the mumps be isolated for at least five days following the beginning of glands’ swelling.
Mumps can cause fever, body aches, headaches and swelling of the salivary glands.4 Some people who contract mumps do not develop symptoms–and others could have additional complications, such as viral meningitis, testicular inflammation (males), and deafness in one or both ears. So it is not a disease for parents and caregivers to ignore or take lightly. The effects of mumps can be long-lasting or disappear in as little as two weeks. Children who receive at least two doses of the MMR vaccine (at the appropriate ages, usually a year after birth and when they enter school) are less likely to develop mumps than those who do not. Encouraging children to cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze and to wash their hands at every opportunity is also a deterrent to the spread of mumps.
1U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
2Op. Cit., U.S. CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html
4Fordham University, Mumps FAQs, February 2014, http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/fordham-mumps-2014-faqs-02-21-2014.pdf