Protect yourself from mumps: Make sure your vaccinations are up to date

An outbreak of mumps in Washington State is a good reminder that although mumps is not very common in the United States, outbreaks and individual cases are happening all over our nation. As of Feb. 25, more than 1,000 people have been infected this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes more than 360 cases in our neighboring state of Washington, and at least one case in northern Idaho. The Washington outbreak caused over 150 children to be excluded from school. Most of those children were unvaccinated and needed to be excluded for their own protection. Since immunization is your best protection against this contagious disease, it would be a good time to check vaccine records for yourself and your children to be sure you are up to date.

How would someone be exposed to it?

Mumps is caused by a virus. It spreads through saliva or mucus, so an infected person spreads it by:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or even just talking.
  • Sharing items you would put in your mouth like eating utensils and cups.
  • Touching things with unwashed hands that others might touch.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Most people experience only mild symptoms that start with fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and then progresses to swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on both sides of the head. But the virus also can cause serious, long-lasting issues, including:

  • Encephalitis, or swelling of the brain
  • Meningitis, or swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord
  • Loss of hearing, which could be temporary or permanent
  • Swelling of the testicles in males who have reached puberty
  • Swelling of the ovaries or breasts in females who have reached puberty.

How long is a person typically sick?

Symptoms can appear 16-18 days after infection, with some people getting sick anywhere from 12-25 days after exposure. It typically takes a few weeks to recover, unless there are long-term complications.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment includes bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, and fever reduction. There is no cure. Immunization is your best bet to prevent infection.

Is the mumps vaccine safe?

The MMR vaccine is the one that prevents mumps, along with measles and rubella. It is safe and effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mumps part of the vaccine is about 88 percent effective after two doses, and about 78 percent effective after just one dose. The CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine. As with any medication, a vaccination can have some mild side effects such as a fever or rash, but most children have none.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript from the segment on March 14. Join us next week — we’ll be talking about how to prevent poisoning emergencies.)

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