4-1-06 - A mumps epidemic is sweeping across Iowa in the nation's biggest outbreak in at least 17 years, baffling health officials and worrying parents. 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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is the nation's only outbreak, which the CDC defines as five or more cases in a concentrated area. "We are calling this an epidemic," said Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, explaining that mumps has spread to more than one-third of the state and does not appear to be confined to certain age groups or other sectors of the population. Quinlisk said Iowa has had about five cases of mumps a year in recent years, and this is its first large outbreak in nearly 20 years.
Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and swelling of the glands close to the jaw. It can cause serious complications, including meningitis, damage to the testicles and deafness.
A mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967. Iowa law requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against measles and rubella, and the mumps vaccine is included in the same shot. The state's last major outbreak was in 1987, when 476 people were infected.