As health officials in nearby states, including Arkansas and Missouri monitor outbreaks of mumps that are growing in number and geographically, the Tennessee Department of Health reminds residents mumps vaccination is the best way to prevent mumps illness.
Mumps spreads through close contact with a person who has mumps, and is most easily spread among unvaccinated people or in school or college settings where large numbers of students live and study in close quarters. The best protection against mumps is vaccination with the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are required for school and college students in Tennessee and have been since about 1990.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults born in 1957 or more recently who have not had mumps receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine in their lifetimes. Two doses are recommended for adults in high risk settings: those attending college, working in a healthcare facility or traveling internationally. People born before 1957 are presumed to be immune through natural illness in childhood; one out of three mumps infections are extremely mild or without symptoms, so people may not recall classic "swollen cheek" mumps illness.
"We strongly encourage children over one year of age and adults under 60 who do not know if they had mumps as a child and do not recall receiving mumps vaccine at some point in their lives, to get the vaccine," said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. "Mumps is usually a mild disease in children but can have more serious complications for adults, including swelling of the brain and the tissue covering it and the spinal cord. It can also affect ovaries, testicles and other parts of the body."
The most common symptoms of mumps include swelling of the salivary glands, headaches, loss of appetite and fever. Persons infected with mumps are capable of spreading the disease to others from about two days before their own symptoms become apparent to approximately five days later. People suspected of having mumps are asked to stay home and away from people not immune to mumps for five days after the start of their illness to prevent spreading it to others. Because many common viruses occasionally cause the same symptoms as mumps, laboratory testing is normally done to confirm the mumps virus as the cause of illness.
TDH recommends all parents and adults have conversations with their healthcare providers about the need for MMR vaccine for themselves and their children, and that they discuss any existing conditions that might be of concern. Women who are pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy in the near future should discuss their immunization status with their healthcare provider.
Hundreds of millions of MMR vaccine doses have been provided and its safety record is excellent. For more information about mumps, visit www.cdc.gov/mumps/index.html.