While South Africa recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent outbreak of measles, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has since confirmed an outbreak of mumps.
Mumps is a viral pathogen that is instigated by the rubulavirus and conventionally manifests with an abrupt onset.
The mumps virus is frequently described as “infectious parotitis” owing to its capacity to elicit distressing inflammation of the parotid and salivary glands, according to the NICD. Furthermore, mumps is commonly regarded as a benign ailment that predominantly impacts young people within the age bracket of five to 9 years.
Since February 2023, the NICD has received several inquiries regarding potential clusters or outbreaks of mumps in various provinces.
Signs and symptoms
According to Dr Mxolisi Xulu from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, symptoms of mumps include inflammation of the salivary glands, and this parotitis may initially present with local tenderness, pain, and earache.
“Unilateral swelling of the salivary gland (lateral cheek and jaw area) occurs during the course of the disease and both salivary glands are usually swollen,” Xulu says.
Other symptoms are redness in the area of the parotid duct, possible protruding ears, and a flat, red rash that begins on the face and disseminates to the rest of the body can occur, he adds.
Symptoms can last three to four days and include low-grade fever, malaise, and headache, explains Xulu.
How is it transmitted?
Xulu notes states that humans are the sole host, and the virus is transmitted via airborne droplets, through direct contact with contaminated saliva or respiratory secretions of contaminated fomites.
Asymptomatic cases are also contagious, he adds.
Beware of complications
According to Xulu, mumps can potentially lead to the development of viral meningitis. This condition is characterised by the infiltration of the virus into the meninges, which are the protective membranes surrounding the brain.
“Complications encompass testicular or ovarian oedema, in the event that the person has undergone pubertal development.”
While it is applicable that mumps typically resolves without inflicting significant harm to one’s well-being, although rare, it is pertinent to acknowledge the presence of serious complications.
Who is at risk?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mumps can infect persons of all ages, including both younger and older children, as well as adults.
Individuals who have previously contracted mumps typically develop lifelong immunity to the virus and are therefore less likely to experience a subsequent mumps infection. However, second occurrences of mumps rarely occur.
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