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MUMPS: Outbreak Scare In FCT Schools



Prof Adewole, Health Minister

In virtually all the primary and secondary Schools around the FCT and environs, there have been at least one (1) to twenty (20) cases of Mumps amongst pupils. ISABEST OMOREGBEJI writes on the growing apprehension at the increasing rate of transmission in view of the dangers of the viral infection.

“I noticed an unusual bulge, swelling around my daughter’s jaws down to the neck region, before then Godia was already loosing appetite and showing some signs of fatigue. I had to suspend her school as soon as I noticed the symptoms, while I take her to the hospital. On my way to see a doctor friend in a nearby hospital who earlier suspected it could be mumps but couldn’t be sure until he saw us. I decided to stop by Godia’s school to at least inform her class teacher she wasn’t coming for the day. On my way I began to notice other school pupil’s carrying similar swellings around the jaws. The thought that my beloved Godia could be in the middle of an epidemic was scary. I hurriedly entered her school compound and then made it to her class. As I approached the teacher with Godia beside me she quickly noticed and related how mumps has been causing a scare since last month, saying over 20 students in the school have suffered similar mumps infection. I felt some relief when she explained that over half the students that went through the infection were well now and have since returned to school.” Narrated Hajia Lami, mother of 4 year old Godia, student of LEA primary School Nyanya Abuja.

In a similar manner, Rhoda, a single mother around Mararaba axis shared almost the same experience but added that in her case, she knew of the disease and that it wasn’t life threatening, she often cured it traditionally by applying red earth on any of her children that happen to contact the disease. However, she admitted the disease was very discomforting on the sufferers as it feels as if some extra load is tight against one’s jaws. It also distorts hearing and as long as it last no food will be attractive as it will seem every food has lost its taste. These are just few of the sufferers of this virus as many others remain exposed to the dangers of being infected with the virus causing the mumps disease.

LEADERSHIP Sunday spoke to Prof. Okeahialam a long time pediatrician now based in Owerri, who took time to explain that “Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands; it is caused by an organism called a paramyxovirus which attacks most, especially the parotid glands that run along the angle of the jaw in front of and below each ear. It can be transmitted via the mouth by tiny drops of saliva and it is very contagious.

“The virus that causes mumps can be contacted from talking, sneezing, sharing drinks, kissing or coughing. Basically from having contact with spilled body fluids of an infected patient can lead to mumps transmission.  Children are more prone to contacting the viral disease because they do not have the immunity to fight it even when they happen to be more exposed to the Virus,” He said.

Prof. Okeahialam noted that “The MMR vaccine which protects against mumps, measles and rubella is given in a wide spectrum of temperate countries but it is not incorporated in the National Programme on Immunisation in Nigeria where only the measles vaccine is given. However, a number of private hospitals avail their patients of this service. These two doses do not provide 100 per cent protection against mumps, but its routine use in the United States for one has reduced the incidence of mumps to less than one percentage point. That is the major reason why the debate over whether to add a third dose has not been widely received.

Speaking further, he stated that “Older children and adults would likely require even less than the regular two shots. It is believed that at such an age, the natural immunity would already have been developed sufficiently to require only limited augmentation with the vaccine. Incidents of this disease are treated very seriously in many advanced countries with any case requiring notification of the public health authorities.

He emphasised that most of the symptoms of mumps are treatable with simple pain killers, bed rest and fluids. Oral fluids should be warm, which makes it easier to swallow, but sometimes, the symptoms are severe enough to make it practical to institute intravenous fluid therapy. Unfortunately, the disease itself has no direct treatment in the same way as you might use a specific medication to achieve a cure of something like malaria ; antibiotic prescriptions are often written out to deter any bacteria from seizing an opportunistic way of invade the person ’ s tissues.

Similarly, he reiterated that when mumps is suspected, genuine efforts needs to be made to confirm if indeed it is the disease being suspected. Many times, mumps does not really appear to be typical in the same way that conjunctivitis causes redness of the eyes. Swelling of the salivary glands occurs in just over a third of all cases. However, even this feature is seen in a variety of bacterial infections of the salivary glands, as well as in other viral infections affecting those glands such as in infectious mononucleosis and similar viruses. There are, thus, a fair number of copycat diseases and they can be frankly deceptive. It is important to note that other conditions may also look like mumps, as seen above. In nearly half of all patients, they would have symptoms as though they had a simple cold. Many cases of this disease therefore escape notice, but it is one condition which spreads like wildfire in overcrowded class rooms, hostels and dormitories. This is where educators, healthcare professionals and parents should exercise maximum vigilance.

“Mumps patients are most contagious a day or two before they truly become ill. The routine is to seek their isolation from other children and other members of the family once they fall ill and to keep them away from others for at least five consecutive days after the appearance of symptoms. Usually, the disease runs its course in five days to one week and resolves. Associated pain in the scrotum which indicates that it has spread to the testes in a manner termed ‘mumps orchitis’ may become the culprit in causing male infertility, but this is fortunately, not very common. When there is a dull abdominal pain with associated nausea and vomiting, it is an indication that the pancreas has become inflamed in a malady called pancreatitis. Sometimes, this association leaves permanent damage that could make the individual develop diabetes. He stated.

Finally, Okeahialam concluded that many mothers can be relied upon to make a fairly accurate diagnosis of the condition from sheer experience. That does not mean that they or the doctors are always correct either in making the required diagnosis. The only investigation that can guarantee a near 100 per cent accuracy of the presence of mumps in an individual is a fancifully named test called RT -PCR test. This is a test conducted for respiratory specimens to identify and confirm conditions similar to influenza. It can be used for nasal swabs and sputum specimens. Although routinely available for patients who have been hospitalized for mumps or other similar viral infections, it is not fool -proof and can result in false positive results. It is also too expensive for a resource -poor nation like ours and therefore beyond the reach of many ordinary parents. Other than those constraints, a reliable diagnosis can usually be made and treatment provided.