What’s Driving Mumps Cases In Texas To Reach 20-Year High?


Mumps in Texas is skyrocketing and is at a 20-year high with the contagious virus infecting even spring travelers. There have been multiple outbreaks involving vacation break travelers at South Padre Island.

According to health officials, the disease is not very deadly barring the heavy discomfort from swollen salivary glands. However, the complications it breeds can have long-term effects. In some cases, mumps can cause deafness and encephalitis with swelling of the brain as well.

"Texas has had 221 mumps cases this year, the largest total since there were 234 cases in 1994," the state health department said.

Normally, it takes an average of two weeks for symptoms of mumps to develop. Students are a highly vulnerable group for mumps as they share bottles, cutlery, and food frequently.

Health authorities have issued an advisory to doctors and clinics.

CDC Data On Mumps Escalation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the first three months of 2017, there were 1,965 cases of mumps in 37 states.

In 2016, there were more than 5,000 reported cases at a 10-year high.

The silver lining is that these numbers are moderate, compared with the number of infections before the vaccine came up in 1967. Before the vaccine arrived, approximately 186,000 cases used to be reported a year.

"When you think about mumps, most people will do OK, but there are potentially more serious complications," noted Dr. Cynthia Brownfield, a physician with Mosaic Life Care.

Symptoms And Tips For Prevention

Caused by a virus, mumps shows up with mild fever pain in the body. The parotid gland situated near the jaw starts swelling, causing big discomfort and the swelling radiates down from the ear to the jaw.

Recovery may follow in a week. However, complications including swelling at testicles can be a matter of concern, as it may cause infertility, Brownfield noted.

"The most concerning is that mumps, in one in a thousand cases, can lead to deafness, meningitis or encephalitis," Brownfield added.

How To Prevent Mumps?

Mumps spreads through sneezing and sharing of cups and utensils. Symptoms like swollen salivary glands, swollen testicles, tiredness, and muscle aches manifest after 16 days of exposure to the virus. Those suspected of mumps are advised to stay home considering the contagious nature of the illness.

Vaccination is the best way to avoid infection though there have been cases of vaccinated people getting infected from exposure to the virus.

Third Dose Of Vaccine Urged

Meanwhile, the escalation in mumps cases has led to health officials and doctors demanding a third vaccination dose to bolster current immunization patterns.

A CDC spokesperson also said it is investigating the possibility the "protective effect of the vaccine decreases over time."

Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Philadelphia, called for a third dose in light of the outbreaks as a quicker solution before developing a stronger vaccine.

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

Under the current guidelines, children must take two doses of the MMR-II at the age of 12 to 15 months and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.

In the United States, MMR-II is the only licensed mumps vaccine manufactured by Merck.

According to the CDC, MMR-II in two doses is 88 percent effective at protection against mumps.

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