Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

Mumps Exposure at Rugby Tournament

Release Date: April 29, 2010
Contact: Amy Caruso, (919) 707-5555

RALEIGH:  Public health leaders in North Carolina are urging increased vigilance against mumps after a 21-year-old resident of New Hanover County developed symptoms of the disease earlier this week. 

Mumps is an infectious disease best known for causing swelling of the cheeks and jaw.

It is often spread by coughing and sneezing.  Mumps is usually a mild disease, but it can occasionally cause serious complications.  Most children in the United States are vaccinated against mumps before entering kindergarten. 

The 21-year-old New Hanover County resident may have been infected with mumps after interacting with members of an English rugby team who were traveling in Wilmington, the Triangle, and Virginia earlier this month.  One person from that rugby team has been diagnosed with mumps, and four other team members have developed symptoms consistent with the disease.  Each of those individuals is now in England.

“This outbreak of mumps clearly demonstrates how vaccine-preventable diseases are just a plane ride away,” state Epidemiologist Megan Davies said.  “Vaccination is your best protection against this disease.”

The New Hanover County Health Department is tracking the suspect case with help from the N.C. Division of Public Health.

The Disease

Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by the mumps virus. It is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks.  Items used by an infected person, such as soft drink cans or eating utensils, can also be contaminated with the virus, which may spread to others if those items are shared.  In addition, the virus may spread when a person with mumps, who does not wash their hands after coughing or sneezing, touches items or surfaces and someone else then touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose.

Symptoms may include:

  • low grade fever,
  • headache,
  • muscle aches,
  • tiredness,
  • loss of appetite, and
  • swelling of salivary glands.

Anyone who has not been previously infected with the mumps virus or vaccinated for mumps can get infected by this virus.

The most common complication is inflammation of the testicles in males who have reached puberty.  Rarely this may lead to fertility problems.

Other rare complications include:

  • inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord,
  • inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts in females who have reached puberty, and/or
  • deafness.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for mumps. If someone becomes very ill, they should seek medical attention.  However, they should call their doctor in advance so they don't have to sit in a waiting room for a long time and possibly infect other patients.

Preventing Mumps

The mumps vaccination is given in a series of two doses, usually in combination with vaccinations for measles and rubella in a vaccine called MMR.  Children get their first dose of the MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and a second dose at four to six years of age.  The vaccine is safe and effective, although cases may occasionally be reported in vaccinated persons.

Additional things people can do to help prevent the spread of mumps and other infections include:

  • washing hands well and often with soap, and teaching children to wash their hands, too,
  • not sharing eating or drinking utensils,
  • cleaning surfaces that are frequently touched (such as toys, doorknobs, tables, and counters) regularly with soap and water or with cleaning wipes,
  • minimizing close contact with other people if you are sick,
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and putting your used tissue in the trash can.  If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.


 Ready NC Connect NC