© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Search Is On for Source of Iowa Mumps Epidemic

The mumps epidemic in Midwestern states is the first in the United States in 20 years. Here, a 1963 image of a little girl with jaws swollen by mumps.
Herb Snitzer//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
The mumps epidemic in Midwestern states is the first in the United States in 20 years. Here, a 1963 image of a little girl with jaws swollen by mumps.

A mumps epidemic is expanding in the Midwest. It's the country's largest outbreak of the disease in almost two decades. Most of the cases are college students, who have been vaccinated against the childhood disease.

In a typical year, Iowa usually records about five cases of mumps, with no more than 300 cases for the entire country. But Iowa's now counting more than 600 confirmed and suspected cases. At least 120 other cases are under investigation in Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Federal health officials are worried that two infected air travelers may have spread it as far as the nation's capital, although there are no cases outside the Midwest so far.

A big question is where the outbreak come from. Dr. Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta says so far, nobody knows. But it's been brewing since midwinter.

"Probably the first cases occurred as early as December. In January, there were more cases," says Seward. "And I think initially the first cases weren't recognized clinically, which is not surprising. Physicians haven't seen mumps in a long time."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tags
Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.