State health officials report ‘unconfirmed’ mumps cases

By William P. Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

A mumps outbreak which has blazed through the Midwest may be knocking on New Mexico’s door. The New Mexico Department of Health has issued a release stating that two “possible” mumps cases have recently been discovered in New Mexico, although the release is quick to add that New Mexico typically has one or two mumps cases per year.

Chris Minnick, a public information officer with the department said officials are encouraging mumps immunizations for children.

“We particularly recommend that pre-school and school-age children get their shots updated,” Minnick said. “If mumps is left untreated, hospitalization is often necessary.”

The health department’s nurse manager for Portales, Carol Morgan, said most Portales schoolchildren received their mumps immunizations around the age of one year (with a booster at four to six years of age) and teens routinely get their mumps shots updated around the age of 14 or 15.

Still, Morgan said there are a handful of families who have neglected to get their children immunized.

“They need to get their children in here quickly,” Morgan said. “We have 50 to 100 doses on hand.”

Morgan said public health offices don’t offer mumps immunizations for adults, but adult immunizations can be obtained from private physicians. Minnick said the onset of the mumps infection starts out with cold-like symptoms and the infection can be spread by coughing and sneezing.

“It (mumps) can start with headaches, earaches, muscle aches and fever. Then it furthers with swelling in the lower-jaw area,” he said.

Morgan said mumps can cause hearing loss or even deafness in some cases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that some adults should get the immunization.

“Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older, who was born after 1956, should get at least one dose of the vaccine, unless they can show that they have had either the vaccine or the disease,” the Web site states.

Minnick said there are no plans to shift the state health department into high gear at this time, but he said contingency preparedness plans are in place should a major outbreak hit New Mexico.

There have been more than 1,500 confirmed and suspected mumps infections in the Midwest since December 2005, according to the department of health’s release.

The Centers for Disease Control Web site has many pages on mumps at:

Public Health Offices
The Clovis and Portales offices of the New Mexico Health Department can be reached at the following numbers and addresses:
Clovis office: 1216 Cameo. Phone: 763-5583
Portales office: 1515 West Fir. Phone: 356-4453