Last week I was sitting in a waiting room waiting for my appointment when an employee of the business came up to the receptionist and asked if she had heard the so-and-so was out with a bad case of chicken pox. He then made the comment that when an adult contracts it, it is especially horrible because it can cause sterility. In reality it is not chicken pox that can cause sterility but rather mumps.
Up until 2006 there has been an average of 265 cases of mumps nationwide. However, in 2006, by April 28th a total of 1,120 mumps cases had been reported in Iowa alone. Last year the number of cases was 5. The source of the Iowa epidemic is unknown; however, the United Kingdom experienced a recent mumps epidemic that peaked during 2005 with approximately 56,000 cases.
Mumps is an acute viral infection characterized by fever and swelling of the salivary glands. Complications can include inflammation of the testicles or ovaries(sterility is uncommon), meningitis/encephalitis, spontaneous abortion, and deafness. In the Iowa cases 5% of the patients reported complications such as orchitis( inflammation of the testicles or ovaries). In the prevaccine era nearly everyone in the United States experienced mumps, and 90% of cases occurred among children aged <15 years. Of course those children have a life time immunity to any reoccurrence. It was not until the late 70’s that a campaign was begun to immunize children. Unfortunately, these children who were immunized do not have a life time immunity.