Mumps is Spreading Quickly Across the Midwest, But Could it Make it to Region 8?

APRIL 13, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:30 P.M. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- America is seeing its first mumps epidemic in 20 years and it’s been out of the news so long, many have forgotten what it really is.

But regardless it's spreading quickly and doctors say Region 8 residents need to be aware.

"In this area, if they have large glands, puffiness of the cheeks with fever, and other types of symptoms of like general cold symptoms, they should see their doctor, says Dr. Lance Tuetken, a physician at the First Care Clinic on Matthews.

Ever since the late 1960's when doctors introduced a vaccine effective in almost all patients, an average of only 300 cases have been reported nationwide. But already this year, over 700 cases have been reported across the Midwest and most of those infections have been in Iowa .

So what are doctors saying about all this? One local doctor says he thinks it all goes back to this generation and the parents.

"A lot of parents have now got accustomed to not bringing children in for their immunizations. We just don't hear about these illnesses that were prevalent years ago," says Dr. Tuetken.

Whatever the cause may be for the lack of immunizations, the rapid spread of the mumps is the main concern for now. The reported mumps epidemic shows just how quickly air travel can spread the disease.

"The biggest thing is the spread of it. Mumps is so easily spread and its spread by respiratory droplets," says Dr. Tuetken.

It's airborne, meaning it is very easy to catch. It may not be in Arkansas yet, but with people flying in and out of the natural state daily, it could be here tomorrow.

"If you haven't been immunized it will find you," says Dr. Tuetken.

K8 News spoke with the local and state health departments, but they were unable to give an interview. However, they did release this information which states that an Iowa college student who changed flights in Northwest Arkansas on April 2nd, developed mumps soon after his flight. Every Arkansas resident on that flight will be notified about the possible encounter. But basically, doctors say you're better off safe than sorry. It's best to be immunized ahead of time.