Health authorities in Texas are making efforts to fight a record-breaking outbreak of mumps that has widely spread through the state.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported that there are 221 cases of mumps in the state this year, which is supposed to be the highest number since 1994 when 234 cases were reportedly found. College students particularly have been among the hardest hit by the virus, which is found to spread through close personal contact and might result in swollen glands, fever, and headache. These viruses are rarely deadly but they might cause discomfort in salivary glands and make them swell up. In the worst case, it can cause deafness and swelling of the brain.

It takes almost two to three weeks or maybe even longer for the symptoms of mumps to get developed. College students are especially prone to it as they share bottles, glasses, cutlery and share food frequently.

“State, regional and local health departments are currently investigating multiple outbreaks throughout the state, including one involving possible exposures on South Padre Island, a popular spring break destination,” the health department said in a statement.

These mumps cases got linked to South Padre Island which first came to the limelight this week when another state health department contacted about a patient having mumps who had traveled to the region for spring break.

The symptoms of mumps include swollen or tender salivary glands, swollen or tender testicles, low fever, tiredness and muscle aches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a statement that, regardless of rumors, the swollen testicles rarely lead to cause infertility in men.

Mumps has a long incubation period, as long as 26 days between exposure and observed symptoms, so people can be exposed, a little more than over a month ago, and can also have new cases with that association.

Arkansas is fighting a very large outbreak, having more than 2,900 cases found out at the time of the investigation.

Texas is the latest state which got hit with a large mumps outbreak. The previous year the U.S. had multiple outbreaks of the mumps resulting to 5,748 cases. However, there were just 229 cases in 2015. The U.S.  has 756 mumps cases since the outbreak which started last October.

Dr. William Schaffner, an expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that unlike other diseases like measles, the recent outbreaks of mumps appear to occur in populations having high vaccination rates.

“Although people are vaccinated, after about 15 years there is some waning of immunity and if you get a strong exposure that exposure can overcome that diminished protection and you’ll get a case of mumps,” said Schaffner.

People are usually immune against mumps as children get two doses of the MMR vaccine.College students are in particular at a risk since they go to school in close proximity to others. Additional to this if they travel together for the break, football games or other events the virus might spread from one school to another school.

During the recent years, epidemiologists have been wondering if the virus has mutated to such an extent that the current vaccines are not much effective at providing protection, although it’s too early right now to be sure.

Since the pre-vaccine era, there has always been more than 99% decrease in cases of mumps in the United States, as per the CDC.

The mumps virus is being spread through some close personal contact while coughing, sneezing, or even talking. However, most people who are infected with the virus recover without serious complications, and in the rare case, the virus might cause swelling of the testes, the ovaries, the membrane which surrounds the brain and the brain itself.

We have seen that the vaccine, after 15 years, has proved to be 85% effective,”. So the bad news stands to be that 15% of people who have been vaccinated are more likely to become ill if they encounter mumps really close.

“However, the good news is, the complications of mumps seem not to develop,” Schaffner said. People who have been vaccinated are unlikely to get meningitis or inflammation of the ovaries or testes, or partial deafness. “It would appear these complications are not occurring among these individuals who have partial immunity. They get a milder infection.”



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