Mumps – What You Need to Know

Mumps - What You Need to Know

If you or a family member has been exposed to mumps, the most important thing you can do is to remain calm. There’s no need to panic.

Though mumps cases have increased across North Texas and the U.S. recently, physicians can easily identify whether or not exposure has occurred through a simple blood test.  If the test shows you have not been exposed, it is the perfect time to get a vaccination or booster shot.

While not common in the U.S., outbreaks can occur with increasing populations from other countries. It is highly contagious but is believed to be much less hazardous than when outbreaks occurred years ago. In most years, reported cases number in the hundreds. However, this year, more than 4,000 cases have been reported, primarily centering in Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas.

Transmission generally occurs with prolonged exposure such as in a classroom or in a family gathering with a school-aged child who is symptomatic with the mumps.

Knowing if you have been exposed to the virus is the first step. The second is visiting your physician.

If you develop symptoms – fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite followed by swollen salivary glands – remember the virus is contagious. Please keep contact with the general public to a minimum.

An infected person can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, sharing items such as cups or utensils and touching objects with unwashed hands that are later touched by someone else, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infectious period begins before salivary glands swell and up to five days afterward.

People with known immune deficiencies and other pre-existing conditions should stay aware of potential exposure as well as symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary to avoid complications.

The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is available for all ages. A vaccination in childhood may not provide enough immunity in an older adult.

While news reports have continued with the increased rates of mumps cases, the situation is quite different from the swine flu which swept across the U.S. in 2009. At the time, little was known about the swine flu except that it was extremely contagious and primarily affected people under 35-40 years of age. With mumps, much is known about the illness. People who are vaccinated and have healthy immune systems are not as susceptible to the mumps virus. And the virus is not as potent as in years past.

Again, remember not to over-react if you or a loved one has been exposed. Primary vaccinations including booster shots and tests to find out if you are adequately immunized or have recently been infected are readily available.

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