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Health Team

Don't let your guard down about mumps

Posted June 3, 2010 5:23 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2010 6:32 p.m. EDT

WRAL Health Team

— Mumps was a prevalent childhood disease more than 50 years ago. After 1957, required vaccinations made it a rare disease in the U.S.

Mumps might be rare in this country, but experts say it is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

“A million people come and arrive in the United States from abroad each year, so there's always the possibility of these diseases,” said Dr. David Weber, an epidemiologist and associate director of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Weber said there have been at least three local mumps cases this year.

The mumps vaccine is part of a combination vaccine along with measles, rubella and chicken pox.

With mumps, there's no rash. Instead, patients experience a swelling of the parotid glands that produce saliva.

The illness can sometimes cause sterility, but the more serious threats are complications like meningitis and pancreatitis.

Treatment options for mumps are different from many other viruses.

“If someone gets exposed to mumps, there's nothing we can do to prevent them from getting mumps if they've not been adequately immunized,” Weber said.

Mumps is found in saliva, so sharing utensils or a cup or sneezing can spread the virus.

Doctors say the best way to protect against mumps is by being immunized.

Kindergarten students are required to have two doses of the mumps vaccine before entering school. Students entering their freshman year of college are required to take two doses of mumps and the Tdap vaccine if it's been more than 10 years since their last tetanus shot.