There's a huge mumps outbreak in Texas, guys. According to the Department of State Health Services, there have already been 221 cases since January, making this the highest incidence of mumps in the Lone Star state in 22 years. Yikes!
Here's what you need to know: Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads from person to person through saliva and mucus. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and most people will also have swelling of the salivary glands, causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw. The symptoms generally last between two and 10 days. And since mumps does not respond to antibiotics, doctors recommend bedrest and over-the-counter pain relievers.
The best line of defense against contracting mumps is the MMR vaccine. The CDC recommends that children get two doses of MMR—one dose is considered about 78 percent effective, two doses about 88 percent effective. And even so, the CDC says most of the mumps cases across the nation are occurring among people who have been vaccinated.
"We say that the vaccine, after 15 years, is about 85 percent effective," infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner told CNN. "So the bad news is that 15 percent of people who have been vaccinated are likely to become ill if they encounter mumps very closely. However, the good news is, the complications of mumps (things like meningitis and inflammation of the brain, for example) seem not to develop. It would appear these complications are not occurring among these individuals who have partial immunity. They get a milder infection."
So, should everyone traveling to Texas get another dose of MMR? "We're not there yet," Dr. Schaffner said. Still, if you're visiting the state and know someone there with mumps, you may want to update your vaccine as a preemptive strike.
"You may have to pay for it out-of-pocket," Schaffner said. "But it is a safe and easy thing to do."