Not since 2006 has there been this much talk about the highly contagious disease with the funny name — mumps.
The infection has garnered much attention for its swift spread through the National Hockey League this season, sidelining stars on several teams, including the Minnesota Wild.
It also has plagued hundreds of college students — just as it did in Iowa eight years ago.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of mumps cases has doubled in the past year — afflicting more than 1,000 people nationwide.
A disease that typically strikes children, the recent outbreak is hitting adults hard and prompting doctors to issue reminders about the importance of keeping current with vaccinations.
“It’s quite contagious,” said Dr. Mark Schleiss, division director of pediatric and infectious disease and co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Translational Research at the University of Minnesota. “We have seen a lot of it in 2014, and not just in the NHL.”
The virus spreads through droplets of saliva or mucus of an infected person released by coughing, sneezing or talking, Schleiss explained.
Close quarters, such as military barracks, college dormitories or locker rooms create a perfect breeding ground for the infection to spread.
The viral disease used to sicken tens of thousands in the United States every year before scientists developed a vaccine in 1967. Today, most children receive two doses of the vaccine, which protects against mumps, measles and rubella.
But some adults never received their second booster (when they were young) and are now at risk.
Having the mumps can be painful. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, muscle aches and swelling of the jawline, or a “chipmunk cheek.”
While the infection isn’t serious most of the time, it can (in some cases) lead to a host of severe problems including encephalitis, or swelling of the brain lining, and deafness.
And there’s nothing funny about that.