Two suspected cases of the mumps were recently reported in the Three Rivers Public Health jurisdiction, the department's executive director said Tuesday.

"They were suspected cases because they have symptoms, but don't necessary have the lab work to back that up," Terra Uhing said.

The Three Rivers district includes Washington, Dodge and Saunders counties.

The cases involved adults and, Uhing said one was related to a breakout in a neighboring health department.

In a press release issued last week, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officials said they have seen a significant increase in mumps cases related to two recent outbreaks. At least 30 cases have been identified, mainly among attendees of a wedding in Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department’s jurisdiction (Cedar, Dixon, Thurston and Wayne counties) and a workplace in Four Corners Health Department’s jurisdiction (Butler, Polk, York and Seward counties).

"Mumps is a highly contagious illness and it's spread by coughing, sneezing and sharing saliva," said Tom Safranek, state epidemiologist for DHHS. "If people start experiencing mumps-like symptoms, they should contact their health care provider, and health care providers should be on the lookout for mumps cases."

According to DHHS, mumps causes swelling of glands in the face and neck.  Other symptoms may include ear ache, jaw pain, testicular pain, fever, fatigue and muscle aches.

Uhling said people, in general, can have symptoms three days before they get swollen or puffy cheeks. "Symptoms usually appear 16 to 18 days after exposure, but the range can also be 12 to 25 days before they get the puffy cheeks," she said.

People with mumps are most contagious three days before and five days after their symptoms begin, according to the DHHS press release.

If people have symptoms of mumps, health officials recommend avoiding public activities.

Children under the age of 1, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of complications from the mumps virus, Uhling said. People who have had mumps are likely to be immune from the virus. 

As she has during the recent measles outbreak and each flu season, Uhing stressed the importance of immunizations. She said they are not only important for one's personal health, but also for those around them, especially infants, the elderly and those weakened immune systems.

"That's who you want to do it for," she said.

The mumps vaccine is part of the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) immunization, the first dose of which is given at 12 to 15 months and then again at 4 to 6 years old.

According to DHHS, if a person has been vaccinated, it is less likely, but possible to become infected, however, the symptoms are less severe. Over time, protection against the virus can decrease. People are encouraged to check their vaccination records to see if they have received two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Because symptoms associated with the mumps can be similar to the flu, Uhing said the next few months will be challenging as public health departments prepare for flu season.

"As we start getting into influenza season, there might be some confusion with the symptoms," she said.

In addition to getting vaccinated, Uhing encourages people to practice good hygiene — covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; washing hands — and staying home if they are running a fever and are sick.

DHHS officials say there are no antibiotics to treat mumps because it is a viral infection, however, symptoms like pain and fever can be addressed. 

Uhing said mumps could lead to complications, such as swelling of the testicles and ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas and brain and, in extreme cases, meningitis.

In most instances, however, people who get the mumps are better within two weeks.

Cases of mumps aren't unheard of in the Three Rivers Public Health District.

"We actually had some issues in Washington County about three or four years ago," Uhing said.

Looking at the numbers, Uhing said, the U.S. could see an increase in the number of cases if the trends continue the rest of the year.

"So far this year, we are at 1,799 through July," she said.

Nebraska has had 30 cases so far.

In 2018, the nationwide yearly total was 2,251; in 2017, there were 6,100 cases; in 2016, there were 6,300 cases; and in 2015 there were 1,300 cases.

In addition to the vaccination, officials offer the following suggestions for people protect themselves against the mumps:

• Do not share drinking glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, or other things that have saliva on them

• Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze

• Stay home when you’re sick

• Wash hands frequently

• Clean and disinfect surfaces

Additional information on mumps is available at dhhs.ne.gov.

 Mumps Cases in Nebraska

2019      30 cases so far

2018      12 cases

2017        6 cases

2016      49 cases

2015        5 cases

2014        1 case

2013        2 cases

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