Left: Child with the mumps
(Des Moines, IA) A mumps outbreak that has swept the state of Iowa has been declared an epidemic by state health officials.
As of Thursday, 245 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of mumps had been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health since mid-January. The number of cases is more than currently found in the rest of the US combined.
"We are calling this an epidemic, not just an outbreak," said Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "We're trying to figure out why is it happening, why is it happening in Iowa and why is it happening right now. We don't know."
The state typically records less than 10 cases of mumps per year. The mumps outbreak has also jumped the state line into south-central Nebraska, the Nebraska Health and Human Services System said.
The CDC said that the outbreak is being caused by the genotype G strain of the virus. This particular strain was responsible for about 56,000 cases of mumps in the United Kingdom in 2005. State officials do not know where in Iowa the outbreak originated.
Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands, and symptoms include fever, a mild rash, headache, muscle aches and glandular swelling. The disease can lead to serious complications, including meningitis, dafness, and damage to the testicles.
The disease is caused by a paramyxovirus, and is spread from person to person by airborne saliva droplets or through direct contact with contaminated articles.
Before the development of the MMR(measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, the virus was the leading cause of viral meningoencephalitis in the United States.
Quinlisk said that a traveler to Britain may be the index case for the outbreak.
"It may have been a college student, since we did see the first activities on college campuses, but we can't prove that," Quinlisk said.