Texas health officials have reported that the number of mumps cases in the state have hit a 20-year high and the virus is now infecting spring break travelers to popular beaches. So far this year, 221 cases of the disease have been reported, the most since the year 1994, when there were 234 cases.

Symptoms of mumps begin with pro-dromal symptoms including low-grade fever, headache, and malaise, followed by progressive swelling of one or both parotid glands, which usually lasts about a week. Other symptoms can include dry mouth, sore face and/or ears and difficulty talking.

A mumps vaccine, developed in 1967, has since reduced reported infections by some 99 percent. The mumps vaccine is the best way to keep from getting mumps, and research shows the mumps vaccine protects 88 percent of people who are fully vaccinated, the health department said.

However, some vaccinated people still get sick if they’re exposed to the virus, so it’s also important for people to help stop the spread of mumps by covering coughs and sneezes, washing their hands frequently with soap and water, and not sharing food and drinks. If you don’t know your vaccination status, talk to your health care provider about getting vaccinated.

Mumps is highly contagious and is spread through coughing and sneezing and sharing cups and utensils.

Texas state, regional, and local health departments are currently investigating multiple outbreaks throughout the state, including one that includes possible exposures on South Padre Island. Mumps cases potentially linked to South Padre Island first came to light this week when another state health department contacted DSHS about a patient with mumps who had traveled to the area for spring break. DSHS alerted other states and, as of April 11, has been notified of 13 mumps cases in people who traveled to South Padre Island between March 8 and March 22 from six states, including two cases from Texas.

Image: Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images

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