Mumps outbreak: Worrying symptoms to watch out for, preventive tips | Health

Mumps cases in children are on rise in the states of Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Telangana which has become a cause of concern for parents. A self-limiting, viral infections, mumps can cause the parotid glands, the ones on each side of the face to swell and they may also be tender or painful. The current outbreak is leading to concerning symptoms and fear of complications. Fever, fatigue, swollen glands, muscle aches, and headaches are some of the symptoms that the children suffering from the disease are experiencing. Parents should watch out for complications like meningitis, and deafness. The condition can cause foetal damage in pregnant women. Experts advise caution and follow social distancing measures and hygiene measures like washing hands with soap and water. (Also read | Year Ender 2023: Mystery pneumonia to dengue, diseases that made headlines this year)

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. (Freepik)

“Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. One can spread the disease 1-2 days before to 5 days after the appearance of swelling. The infected person should avoid going to crowded places and take rest so that no person to person spread would happen. Respiratory etiquettes should be followed as we learned during COVID times,” says Dr Kanchankumar Ramrao Bhagyawant, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

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“The recent mumps outbreak isn’t just a case of swollen cheeks, it’s a reminder of a silent vulnerability lurking within our population. While data on India’s mumps burden is limited, studies like the one on children under 5 paint a worrying picture, low seropositivity (53.3% at 9 months, 20.3% at 1 year), declining antibody levels, and even susceptibility among vaccinated individuals (34.7% in one study). This is a wake-up call, a swollen-cheeked alarm echoing through gaps in our collective immunity,” says Dr Poonam Sidana, Director – Neonatology & Paediatrics at the CK Birla Hospital, Delhi.

Symptoms of mumps to watch out for

“The symptoms, though seemingly harmless, can mask hidden factors like fever, fatigue, swollen glands (near ears, giving that chipmunk look), muscle aches, and headaches. However, the complications can be profound such as meningitis, and deafness, and can cause foetal damage in pregnant women,” says Dr Sidana.

“Fever, headache, muscle pain, tiredness, loss of appetite are early symptoms and then after 2-3 days swollen glands under the ears or jaw appears which may be there on one side or both sides (bilaterally). The swollen area is painful and may be preceded or accompanied by ear pain. Ingestion of sour or acidic food or liquids may aggravate the pain. The swelling gradually decreases over 7 days and other symptoms resolve in 3-5 days. As soon as you see the swelling you should seek medical attention,” says Dr Bhagyawant.

Why this resurgence?

The answer lies in complacency and misinformation eroding our vaccine shield. Coverage has waned, creating chinks in our armour.

“Close-knit communities like schools and sports teams become transmission hotspots. Also, due to a lack of data, mumps vaccination was removed from UPI (Universal Program for Immunization). The path forward is clear, we need to prioritize MMR vaccination, at 9 months, 15 months, and 4-5 years, in both public and private sectors. Combatting misinformation by educating, dispelling myths, and building trust in vaccines,” says Dr Sidana.

Prevention tips

“Mumps infection occurs more often in winter and spring months. Those who are having swollen glands or swelling below ears should be identified as suffering from mumps, should be isolated for at least 7 days after the onset of swelling. They should take adequate rest, good nutrition and symptomatic treatment like medication for fever and pain. Isolating the patient and taking precautions like using face masks, and timely vaccination can prevent the spread of the disease in community. But many times, it’s difficult to identify the source because the viral shedding or spread can occur before the onset of symptoms or from asymptomatic infected individuals. So, vaccination with mumps vaccine would be the best way of prevention. Three doses of the mumps vaccine (MMR VACCINE) should be given to every child at 9 months, 15 months and third doses between 4 to 6 years of age. School-aged children and adolescents who missed the vaccination, can be given 2 doses 4 weeks apart,” says Dr Bhagyawant.

Dr Bhagyawant shares prevention methods to avoid getting the infection

Wash your hands frequently: This is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Practice cough and sneeze etiquette: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of used tissues properly and immediately wash your hands.

Avoid close contact with sick people: Maintain a safe distance (at least 6 feet) from anyone who is showing symptoms of mumps, such as swollen glands or fever. Avoid crowded places and gatherings.

Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly: Disinfection with appropriate cleaning products should be done on frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops.

Precautions for pregnant women

Dr Bhagyawant shares prevention tips for those who are expecting to avoid complications in unborn children.

Minimize exposure: Pregnant women should prioritize avoiding close contact with anyone suspected of having mumps. This includes maintaining distance from sick individuals and avoiding crowded places.

Vaccination status: If not already vaccinated, pregnant women should discuss the MMR vaccine with their healthcare provider. Vaccination before pregnancy is the best way to protect both mother and foetus.

Seek medical advice: If you are pregnant and have concerns about mumps exposure, consult your doctor immediately for proper guidance and preventive measures.

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