FLASH STAFF REPORT
ERATH COUNTY (April 13, 2017) – What is being reported as the largest outbreak of mumps cases in two decades has hit Tarleton State University.
Health officials have told doctors across the state that Texas has recorded 221 mumps cases this year, the highest total since 1994, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Meanwhile, the notification to university officials from the DSHS April 6 followed a case being diagnosed in a Tarleton student.
In Hico, an earlier case was apparently linked to a high school student, leading Hico ISD to send notification to parents on March 23.
Across North Texas, a number of cases of mumps have been reported and media outlets in the Dallas/Fort Worth area have linked the outbreak to students who vacationed at South Padre Island during spring break.
Looking at the national scale, cases reported through March 25 – almost 2,000 – is about one-third of the total number of cases recorded in 2016. The CDC said several university campuses were the site of mumps outbreaks last year, and the states of Iowa and Illinois were the hardest hit.
Historically speaking, cases across the United States last year were far above previous years, with the last upsurge in outbreaks being recorded in 2006, when CDC reported a multi-state outbreak involving more than 6,500 cases predominately affecting college-aged students.
In an effort to prevent the virus from reaching such proportions, health officials have provided information to help identify and prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus, which can spread through coughing, saliva and sneezing.
Infected individuals typically show symptoms – low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, swollen glands under the ear or jaw, swollen or tender testicles – 16 to 18 days after coming into contact with someone infected with mumps.
The contagion period spans between two days prior to gland swelling up to five days afterward, and officials report some people never exhibit symptoms.
There is no treatment for the mumps and severe effects – seen in a small number of cases – can include loss of hearing, brain swelling, sterility and in rare instances death, but a double dose of mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine has proven effective in protecting against the virus. A third dose is recommended for individuals at high risk for contracting mumps.
Children whose families subscribe to state vaccination recommendations receive their first MMR vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second between the ages of 4 and 6. CDC reports that two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective in protecting against mumps.
Individuals who show signs of infection are advised to avoid work, school and other public settings. Mumps sufferers should not return to public activities prior to the sixth day after the onset of gland swelling.
People who are experiencing mumps symptoms are asked to contact their healthcare provider.
Calls to Dr. Jeff Moore, Erath County Health Authority, were not immediately returned, but The Flash will update this report when comments are available.