by April Scheinoha
Outbreaks of mumps are being reported in Minnesota and North Dakota.
As of March 29, a total of 16 confirmed and probable mumps cases were reported in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. On average, fewer than 10 cases are reported each year in the state.
In North Dakota, 14 cases have been reported since Feb. 24. Most were in Ward County. On average, fewer than three cases are reported in North Dakota each year.
Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection that causes swelling and tenderness in the salivary glands, cheeks and jaw, said Anita Cardinal, public health nurse and director of Inter-County Nursing Service in Thief River Falls. Other symptoms include a low-grade fever, a headache, muscle aches, and a loss of appetite. Up to 30 percent of those with the illness exhibit no symptoms, according to MDH.
Mumps can spread three days before the person shows signs of the illness to five days after the symptoms have appeared. The most contagious period is 48 hours before the symptoms appear. There is no treatment for mumps, but individuals can receive care for their symptoms.
Mumps may be prevented with vaccinations. Cardinal noted that the mumps vaccine (as part of the MMR vaccine – Measles, Mumps and Rubella) is typically given to children 12 months to 15 months old. Another booster shot is given at 4 to 6 years old.
Cardinal also encouraged people to cover their coughs and use proper handwashing techniques. In addition, she noted that people shouldn’t share eating utensils or beverage containers.
If people suspect they have mumps, they should call their healthcare provider. Mouth, throat and/or blood samples may be collected to confirm the diagnosis. They should also stay home for five days after the swelling has started.