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An Outbreak In North Texas: What You Need To Know About Mumps

CDC recommends first does of MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 mos. of age. Second dose at 4 to 6 yrs. old.

Most years, Texas sees only about 20 cases of mumps statewide. But the current outbreak in North Texas includes more than twice that many in Johnson County alone. Cases also have been reported in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. 

Interview Highlights:

Dr. Trish Perl is an Infectious Disease specialist at Parkland Health & Hospital System, and Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Man with swollen glands from mumps

About mumps: "Mumps is an infection that mostly causes swelling in the parotid glands, which are glands within the mouth. But it can also cause infection or inflammation of the testicles, some of the brain, or the covering of the brain and other parts of the body. The complications are extremely rare but does occur, and it’s sort of the side effects that we worry about."

Some have mumps without knowing it: “About 20 percent of people don’t know they have mumps. They’re totally asymptomatic. And then the rest of cases really present with a lot of swelling. They have that chipmunk look, and it can be one side or both sides. People actually develop the swelling about 16 to 18 days after they’ve been exposed. They are infectious a little bit before that, but it’s usually right around the time you have the swelling that you’re most infectious.”

What causes the outbreaks “The reasons are severalfold. We have incomplete vaccination rates. There have been a couple of outbreaks in vaccinated groups also, and it may be partly due to waning immunity, it may be changes in viruses. There are a lot of hypothetical reasons that it could happen. But in general, most of these mumps outbreaks have been in populations where there have been pockets where they haven’t been well-vaccinated. You need to have two vaccines to have the full effect of the vaccine. This is a good vaccine, but it’s not a perfect vaccine. It’s about 88 percent effective. So there are some times people don’t respond as well to the vaccine.”

How mumps are spread: “Mumps are spread by droplets that can be coughed or could be shared with drinks or eating food or kissing. So it’s really spread on saliva. This is a disease that spread really well in what we call high density. When you have a lot of people together who are sharing a lot that is what really facilitates the transmission of this organism.”

Preventing spread of mumps: “The most important things is to get the vaccination. The other thing you can do is be very cognizant if you have respiratory symptoms or a cough that you could have a virus. You should be coughing into your sleeve. Be careful about what you’re sharing, beverages, etc. And you’ve go to wash and clean your hands, which has been shown to prevent up to 30 percent of respiratory infections.”

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.