Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mumps outbreak in Arkansas

There has been an outbreak of mumps in North West Arkansas, with about 520 confirmed cases so far.  Mumps is caused by rubelavirus, a member of paramyxoviridae. It is characterized by flu-like aches and a fever, with a “signature” of swollen salivary glands around the face. Rarely, it can lead to more serious diseases like aseptic meningitis, or encephalitis. There is no specific treatment for mumps; once an individual is infected with the virus they must wait for their body’s immune system to fight it off.

Although outbreaks are still fairly common in the US, this is the state’s largest outbreak of mumps in 20 years.  Unfortunately, state data only goes back about 20 years, so officials are unable to compare it to historical outbreaks farther than 20 years back. The outbreak seems to have been caused by cases in Iowa during the past year, and was brought to Arkansas by a single family who quickly spread it to fellow church members.  Although the virus exists for only several seconds outside a host, school districts are taking extra precautions to clean surfaces in schools and on public transportation. 

Officials say the community is lucky that a vaccine exists. The mumps if they have received the vaccine twice. For those among the population who were vaccinated but did not develop strong immunity, officials state that they often experience diminished symptoms but are still contagious to others, especially individuals who were never vaccinated. In response to the epidemic, many members of the Arkansas community have received a third vaccination, in order to boost their immune response to the virion. Officials state that although the outbreak seems large in comparison to recent years, it could have been much worse without the extensive public health measures that have been taken.

See these websites for more information:

Elisa Hofmeister

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