We are all counting the days until spring (or at least until Groundhog Day and hoping for good news!). But right now, Will County Health Department Epidemiologist Alpesh Patel wants to remind residents that a proactive effort to stay healthy this winter must continue.
“Area cases of both influenza and mumps are rising, and that is no surprise. It’s simply that time of year,” Patel explained. “What we want people to realize is that if you have the usual flu symptoms; such as upper respiratory problems, fever, cough, and nasal congestion; you need to take action if the first sign of mumps appears as well.”
Patel says salivary gland swelling, which usually causes pain or discomfort in the lower jaw area, should not be ignored or dismissed. “As soon as you notice any discomfort or swelling, you need to take all mumps precautions, because the next five days are the most critical when it comes to being contagious. This means isolating yourself from others, and not attending any kind of events where you could possibly expose other people.”
Patel added that a common mistake is assuming you do not have the mumps because you have already been immunized with the standard two doses of the MMR vaccine. “We are seeing cases where those with both MMR doses are acquiring the mumps, because like so many other viruses and influenza strains, the illness mutates and adjusts to our bodies and medications over long periods of time. So saying to yourself, ‘I’m immunized, this could not be the mumps,’ can be a big mistake.”
Any sign of lower jaw discomfort or swelling that might be a sign of the mumps should never be ignored, regardless of a person’s immunization status.
The first action upon noticing any lower jaw pain, discomfort, or swelling on top of flu-like symptoms, Patel says, should be to contact your medical provider by phone. “They might tell you to simply stay home and isolate yourself for five days, or they might ask you to come in to the office at a certain time when it will be safer, and less chance that you might expose another patient. But never take the symptoms lightly.”
And as for the flu, although this year’s season is looking to not be like last year, the number of cases is indeed following its usual trend of rising in January. “It is never too late to get your flu shot, no matter how far we are into the season,” Patel reminds us. “While it may not prevent you from getting the flu at this point, it can certainly reduce the severity of the illness or the number of days that you are sick.”
For more information on mumps and influenza, please visit, respectively, these Illinois Department of Public Health websites: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/mumps, and http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/influenza.
Complications from mumps can lead to serious problems with various organs in the body. These complications can include pain and swelling of the testicles, deafness, arthritis, and central nervous system disorders such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal column). Other complications include inflammation of the pancreas and breasts, and extreme dangers during the first trimester of pregnancy.