How Contagious Is Mumps? Thousands Of Cheerleaders Were Potentially Exposed To The Illness In February

Just a week after the New York State Health Department announced people in New York City had been exposed to measles, Texas officials are warning that tens of thousands of attendees at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship, which were held Feb. 23-25 in Dallas, may have been exposed to mumps. Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Department of State Health Services, told The Washington Post that health officials learned a person had traveled into the state to attend the competition, and was later confirmed to have the mumps virus. The National Cheerleaders Association sent a letter to participants Mar. 2. Bustle has reached out to the National Cheerleaders Association for comment, and will update this post when we hear back.

Van Deusen added that since the competition, there haven't been any reports of people from Texas or other states coming down with mumps, but cautioned that the disease's incubation period isn't yet over. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mumps has an average incubation period of 16 to 18 days, but the period can be as short as 12 and as long as 25 days. Mumps is highly contagious and is spread through saliva, the same way colds and the flu are spread, according to Patient.Info.

According to Van Deusen, "[t]he next few days will probably be telling." He advised that participants in the All-Star National Championship stay vigilant for signs they've contracted mumps. The Washington Post reported that more than 23,000 athletes and 2,600 coaches participated in the competition, coming from 39 states and nine countries.

Symptoms of mumps can include a low-grade fever, headaches, a lack of appetite, pain, tenderness, and swelling in "one or both parotid salivary glands (cheek and jaw area)," the CDC says on its website. The swelling often first appears in front of an affected person's ears, then "extends downward and forward as fluid builds up in the skin and soft tissue of the face and neck." This swelling will last one to three days, and then will go away.

People who are vaccinated are less likely to encounter serious symptoms or complications, the CDC says. Folks who are unvaccinated face greater danger from complications including orchitis, or swelling of the testicles, mastitis, an inflammation of breast tissue, pancreatitis, deafness, meningitis, and encephalitis, according to the CDC. Unlike measles, which along with mumps is vaccinated for using the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine, mumps has not caused any reported deaths in the U.S. during recent outbreaks, according to the CDC.

But folks who may have been exposed should still remain alert. In the letter sent from the National Cheerleaders Association to attendees, Antonio Aragon, a state health official, said, "If you, your child, or any other individuals linked to this event experience or have experienced mumps symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider and inform them of your exposure to mumps," reported The Washington Post.

The best way to prevent contraction of mumps is to get vaccinated, the CDC says. Two doses of the mumps vaccine are 88 percent effective at preventing it; drop down to one dose, and you have a 78 percent chance of being protected. The CDC adds that the increased commonality of two-dose vaccination during childhood has reduced the overall rate of mumps by 99 percent.

Though mumps is certainly not the most dangerous disease we have a vaccine for, the fact that we have had brushes with potential outbreaks of two thoroughly preventable diseases in the past week is a sign of a huge problem: People are vaccinating less. And if that trend continues, expect to see more stories like this one.