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Children's Health

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Mumps Outbreak Hits New York, New Jersey

Boy, 11, Got Mumps While in U.K.; 1,521 Sickened as Outbreak Continues


New York City -- mainly Brooklyn -- accounts for 44% of the mumps cases. An additional 24% are in Orange County, N.Y.; 20% are in Rockland County, N.Y.; and 10% are in four New Jersey counties. Although the summer camp was in Sullivan County, N.Y., the disease is not spreading there.

Because of continued spread, health authorities working with communities in Orange County are giving schoolchildren a third dose of the MMR vaccine. Gallagher says it will be two or three months before it's known whether the effort succeeded.

Mumps starts just like most other viral diseases, with fever, tiredness, muscle aches, and/or loss of appetite. The classic sign of mumps -- swollen salivary glands that make a person look like a chipmunk -- don't appear right away. About half of people infected with the mumps virus don't get noticeable symptoms.

When mumps symptoms do appear, they usually come 16 to 18 days after infection. Because infection can precede symptoms by up to 25 days, outbreaks are difficult to control.

In the days before the introduction of the mumps vaccine in 1967, huge waves of mumps spread across the nation every few years.

"It is believed the vast majority of the population was infected," Gallagher says. "It's not as infectious as measles, but it spreads very easily via respiratory droplets."

There is no specific treatment for mumps, which is why vaccination is strongly recommended. Complications of mumps are more common in people who already have reached puberty.

Swollen testicles, a complication called orchitis, can lead to sterility, but much more rarely than once was believed. Permanent deafness is another feared but relatively rare complication of mumps.

A report on the mumps outbreak appears in the Feb. 12 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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