Doctors Raise Concern over Increasing Cases of Mumps

Child health experts have raised concern over the raising number of children reporting to hospitals with mumps, a contagious illness caused by the mumps virus. 

According to Dr. Richard Idro, a Consultant Pediatrician at Mulago National Referral Hospital, they conducted an online survey between the 8th and 15th of December to establish how widespread the infection is. This is after more children were reporting to the clinic with the problem.

Seventy- three doctors across the country reported to have attended to children with mumps during that period. 

Nearly 20 districts, spread all around the country in the east, west, central, and north including Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Masaka, Kyenjojo, Fort Portal, Lira, Soroti, Serere, Mbale, Agago, Adjumani, Gulu, Kiryadongo, Jinja, Kabarole, Busia, and Mbarara reported cases. The most affected are Kampala and Wakiso followed by Mukono, Mbarara, Kyenjojo, and Soroti.  

Although in the other districts, many of the doctors indicated that they each saw between one and five cases, in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Mbarara, Kyenjojo, and Soroti, several doctors and especially pediatricians, reported seeing more than 5 cases each, and some, several cases daily.  

Idro says that the perception is that initial cases may have been between July and October 2022 but the numbers increased in late October and by November and December, it spread countrywide. 

According to experts, children affected by mumps develop fever, and pain in the throat and in the glands which produce saliva. These glands, and especially the parotid glands near the ear, get swollen.  

Mumps is spread from child to child by contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, and throat when an infected child coughs, sneezes, or talks. Children are especially contagious one to seven days before symptoms appear. The virus can also stay alive on surfaces like doorknobs, eating utensils, and drinking cups. 

Mumps is usually a mild illness and if a child is exposed to the virus, they may have minor symptoms that resemble a cold. Many feel tired and achy, have a fever, and have swollen salivary glands on the side of the face but Idro says current cases in Uganda have some uncommon symptoms and signs including swelling of other salivary glands below the chin.   

Although most symptoms of mumps are mild and many recover completely within two weeks, Idro warns that serious complications can occur as one can as a result develop meningitis or inflammation of the brain a condition medically referred to as encephalitis.

“Mumps may also inflame and damage the pancreas leading to pancreatitis and a long-term risk of the child developing diabetes. Inflammation of the testis can result in infertility”. 

However, experts worry that while mumps can be prevented through a vaccine, this jab is not available on the routine immunization schedule since the country only offers the Measles–Rubella vaccine.

To protect against the mumps virus, the country would need a combination vaccine of Mumps, Measles, and Rubella vaccines also called the MMR vaccine. 

Without a vaccine and the absence of a cure, for children who are infected, experts are recommending giving children plenty of fluids, and soft foods that they can swallow easily and avoiding sour foods or liquids as the salivary glands are very sore during mumps.

They also urge parents not to give antibiotics since mumps is a viral infection.

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