The recent mumps outbreak in Ohio brings an awareness of symptoms. This outbreak which started on the campus of Ohio State University has spread to the community. There are now 56 cases of mumps in Franklin County, with 40 of those cases being linked to the university. The community residents who have been affected range in ages, with the youngest being four and the oldest being 50.
Mumps is a highly contagious disease, and the best defense against it is to be vaccinated. Health officials are encouraging vaccination. The incubation period for mumps is 14 to 18 days, meaning that an individual may not display symptoms of the disease until 14 to 18 days after coming in contact with it.
The first symptoms of mumps are nonspecific. They include headache, fever, loss of appetite, and pain caused by chewing or swallowing. The specific symptom that signifies mumps usually occurs on the third day; this is the swelling of salivary glands. These glands become so swollen that it causes the individual’s cheeks to puff out.
Though rare, mumps can cause serious complications. The illness may lead to permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. In males, it may also lead to sterility, but it is rare. Fertility in females can also be affected, but again that is also rare. Mumps can cause meningitis, which involves fluid around the spinal cord and brain. This occurs if the virus spreads through the bloodstream and infects the central nervous system.
Mumps is a virus, so there are no treatments for it. It has to run its course, which is typically about two weeks in an uncomplicated case. Warm or cold packs applied to the swollen glands may help alleviate pain. Acetaminophen or other pain relievers may also help. An awareness of the symptoms is helpful in knowing how to treat individuals during this outbreak.
It is crucial to see a health care provider if an individual suspects he or she may have the mumps. When calling the healthcare provider the individual should inform the staff that he or she thinks they might have the illness. The healthcare provider’s office will want to minimize the time the individual spends in the waiting room with other patients in an attempt to limit exposure.
The vaccine for mumps is considered to be 80 percent effective and one is typically considered immune after vaccination. The vaccine is usually given as a combined vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR. It is recommended that children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine before entering school. The first dose is typically given around 12 to 15 months, with the second dose given between ages four and six. A single dose is not considered effective; adults and children both need two doses to be fully protected.
It is important to note that there are individuals who should not be given the MMR vaccine. These individuals include pregnant women, or women that are planning on becoming pregnant within four weeks after the date they would get the vaccine. It also not recommended for individuals with a compromised immune system or individuals with life-threatening allergic reactions to gelatin or the neomycin antibiotic.
If an individual contracts the virus it is important that he or she stays out of the public until no longer contagious. Practicing good hygiene, such as covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing and frequent hand washing, is important in prevention. The awareness of symptoms is the first step in knowing what to do to prevent mumps.
By Ashley Campbell