Health officials said an outbreak of mumps in Arkansas has reached more than 1,000 cases — the largest ever recorded in the state.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), 1,085 patients in Benton, Pulaski, Madison and Washington counties — most of them children — either displayed symptoms of mumps or had their cases confirmed by a laboratory as of Nov. 7.
“It’s bigger than anything we’ve seen so far,” Gary Wheeler, MD, MPS, ADH chief medical officer, told Infectious Disease News. “I think we’re still in the middle of it.”
The outbreak has affected dozens of workplaces and schools, the ADH said. Students in these affected schools who have not received the MMR vaccine are required to stay home for 26 days from the date of exposure or for the duration of the outbreak. Previously unvaccinated children who get immunized can return to school immediately. Schools are removed from the outbreak list once they reach 26 days without a new case.
The outbreak comes during a nationwide increase in mumps cases this year in the United States. According to the CDC, as of Oct. 8, 45 states had reported nearly 2,345 cases of mumps — the most since 2010.
“This may be the new norm,” said Wheeler.
Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus and causes symptoms that include puffy cheeks and swollen and tender salivary glands. Most people recover completely within a few weeks. According to the CDC, receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine is 88% effective at preventing infection.
The ADH is updating case numbers and locations each day on its website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov. – by Gerard Gallagher
Disclosure: Wheeler works for the state of Arkansas.