Mumps cases on the rise, despite vaccines

While mumps vaccines can weaken over time, they still offer protection against serious complications, according to the CDC.

Mumps is making a comeback — even among people who were vaccinated in childhood, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, reported mumps cases in the United States totaled 6,000, the highest number in a decade. By comparison, in 2010, total annual cases numbered only in the hundreds.

The recent cases tend to occur in localized outbreaks among people between 18-22 years old.

“Mumps outbreaks are on the rise,” said Dr. Janell Routh, a pediatrician and medical officer on the CDC’s mumps team, as reported by The New York Times. “We’re seeing it in a young and highly vaccinated population.”

Mumps is a virus that causes painful swelling of the salivary glands under the ears, along with fever and fatigue. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing, sharing eating utensils, and living in close contact with a carrier.

While the mumps vaccine can weaken over time in some people, it still offers significant protection against serious complications, such as orchitis, an inflammation of the testicles in young males that can result in low sperm counts and decreased fertility.

During an outbreak of more than 450 cases of mumps at the University of Iowa and the surrounding area in 2015-16, the state health department decided to offer people a third dose of the vaccine.

“Should this situation occur again, we would give third dose,” said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director and state epidemiologist of the Iowa Department of Public Health, in a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “In our outbreak it did substantially decrease the risk of other students getting mumps, and was instrumental in stopping the outbreak.”

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