Over 100 children have been affected by a mumps outbreak in Marashda, Egypt, with 43 cases and 70 infections reported. Officials at the ministry of health insist that this is not a serious outbreak. However, many children are not attending school out of fear of infection.
Mumps is caused by the mumps virus and is spread when a person comes into contact with infected droplets of saliva or mucus, usually through coughing, sneezing, or sharing dishes. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, and fatigue, along with serious complications such as inflammation of the brain and deafness.
Egyptian officials are working to provide treatment for infected youth. However, vaccination is considered the best strategy for avoiding mumps infection.
The vaccination for mumps is a combination vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, or MMR. It is recommened that children receive two doses: one at age 12-15 months and another at age 4-6. The first MMR vaccine became available in 1967 and has reduced mumps prevalence by 99 percent.
This outbreak has occurred alongside news that Egypt is facing a nationwide vaccine shortage. Administrative delays have prevented the health ministry from replacing expired vaccines. While vaccines are available in private clinics, their costs make them unattainable to most patients.
"The longer the government fails to immunize these children, the more vulnerable to disease they are," explained Eman Masoud, head of the Pediatrics Section at Abul Riesh University Hospital in Cairo.
Experts recommend that people experiencing symptoms of mumps contact a provider immediately and avoid situations where they might infect others, such as in a clinic waiting room.