Mumps outbreak has Louisiana health officials on alert

Mumps outbreak has Louisiana health officials on alert

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - The United States is in the midst of a mumps outbreak - the most cases in a decade.  Louisiana has remained isolated from the contagious virus, but that does not mean we are in the clear.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Louisiana is one of only three states not reporting a case of mumps.  Still, Dr. B.J. Foch with the Region V Office of Public Health says the threat is all around us.

"There are about 2,500 cases that are under investigation in Arkansas alone," said Dr. Foch.

Arkansas has been slammed with a big outbreak.  It is something the Louisiana Department of Health is taking seriously.

"Healthcare providers and schools have been notified by memos and what we call the health alert network," said Dr. Foch.  "The Office of Public Health will respond rapidly to any suspected cases."

Dr. Foch says mumps is a contagious disease, caused by a virus spread through saliva and mucus.

"The classic symptom that most people know related to mumps would be a swelling of the parotid glands or the other salivary glands that results in the puffy cheeks of the puffy jaw," said Dr. Foch.

Symptoms can also include fever, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite.  Dr. Foch says those symptoms typically appear about two weeks after infection and there is no medication to treat the virus.

"Treatment is more supportive, because it's a viral infection, so things like rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and fever-reduction medications would be used," said Dr. Foch.

The MMR vaccine helps prevent mumps and the CDC recommends two doses for children: the first dose at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose before kindergarten.  Teens and adults should also be up to date on their MMR vaccination.

"It's safe and effective," said Dr. Foch.  "We don't want to give it to individuals that have a weakened immune system or women that are pregnant, because it's a live virus vaccine."

Mumps outbreaks are most common in settings like schools, colleges, and camps.  High vaccination compliance helps limit the spread of these outbreaks.

If you do not know whether or not you have had the MMR vaccine, particularly if you're entering college, working in healthcare, or plan to travel internationally, you need to talk to your doctor.  The vaccine is about 90 percent effective.

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