A major outbreak of mumps in Arkansas and several other states continues to grow at an alarming rate, according to public health agencies.
Officials say there are more than 2,000 cases of the contagious viral infection in Arkansas. Mumps causes flu-like symptoms and swollen salivary glands in children but can cause more serious complications in adults.
Dr. Manisha Patel, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency still is trying to determine the reason for the current outbreak.
“CDC is looking very closely at understanding why there’s been an increase in the number of cases this year, and we are working closely with health departments to better understand why there is an increase in this year,” she said.
Patel said Arkansas has by far the most cases in a national outbreak of about 4,000 cases, the largest number in a decade. Other states with 100 or more cases include Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
She said most of the cases in Arkansas are in public schools, while it’s mostly on college campuses elsewhere.
Patel said the largest recent outbreak in the U.S. was in 2006 when there were 6,500 cases. She said the best way to avoid mumps is to be properly vaccinated, but there are certain behaviors to avoid, as well.
“Crowding conditions, certain behaviors if they’re sharing cups and that kind of thing, anything that would share saliva that’s how the mumps virus is transmitted,” she explained.
Meg Mirivel, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said most of the people in the state who contracted mumps were current on their vaccines.
“About 90 percent of the school-age children who have been involved in the outbreak are up-to-date, and about 40 percent of the adults who are involved are up-to-date,” she said.
Mirivel said doctors believe vaccines are limiting the disease to milder symptoms and fewer complications. She said a small number of Arkansas families use a state law to opt out of vaccinations for medical, philosophical and religious reasons but are not a major factor in the current outbreak.