Left: Child with the mumps
(Des Moines, IA) The mumps epidemic in Iowa continued to spread this week and reached 605 cases in Iowa by Thursday, public health officials said. Although the highest concentration of cases remained in eastern Iowa, the virus that causes mumps has infected at least one person in half of the state's 99 counties.
"I certainly would consider this a serious threat," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state's epidemiologist. "We're doing everything we can to try to address it, get information out, do what we can to try to get it under control."
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.