The Facts About Mumps and HIV

MMR vaccine
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The news media has been reporting an outbreak of the childhood disease known as mumps. But what exactly are the mumps? Are HIV-positive people at any additional risk of getting the disease during this new outbreak? Is there anything you can do to decrease the risk of mumps or ways to treat it if you do get infected?

Here are few facts that can help.

Overview

Mumps is an infection caused by a virus similar to influenza or flu virus.

In an effort to prevent mumps, most children are vaccinated at a very young age. Yet, small local outbreaks among children and adults still do occur each year. Before vaccination was started in the 1960s, about 200,000 cases of mumps occurred each year. With regular vaccination of young children, that number has declined significantly to about 4500 to 13,000 cases yearly worldwide.

Learn more about the vaccinations recommended for people living with HIV.

How Mumps Is Spread

Because the pathogen that causes mumps is similar to the flu virus, the spread of the disease from person to person happens in very much the same way. Mumps is transmitted by coming in direct contact with saliva or discharges from the nose or mouth of an infected person. The primary routes of infection include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Kissing
  • Sharing glasses or utensils
  • Talking in close proximity

For this reason, yearly outbreaks are usually found in schools or colleges where there are large groups of people in close contact with one another.

Signs and Symptoms

Some people will have no noticeable symptoms at all. If there are symptoms, they can vary from mild to severe and in rare cases can even be life-threatening. Typically, the initial symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen, painful salivary glands beneath the jaw
  • Visibly swollen glands in the neck and beneath the jaw
  • Ear pain
  • Facial pain

These symptoms usually appear about 2 days after infection and can last as long as 2 weeks. Less common but more severe symptoms can include:

  • Mild inflammation of the covering of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis) which causes moderate to severe headaches
  • Swollen and painful testicles, especially in adults
  • in severe cases, brain inflammation (encephalitis) can occur
  • Gradual hearing loss that may be permanent
  • Arthritis symptoms in males
  • Rare involvement of other organs such as the heart, pancreas, and ovaries
  • In extremely rare cases, death can occur.

Prior to vaccinations, childhood deafness frequently occurred among those infected. Recent myths about the dangers of childhood immunization (included the debunked belief that they can cause autism) has led to a decline among parents who avoid the recommended shots.

Public health experts with the CDC strongly believe that this was the 2016 outbreaks, which was centered in Arkansas but quickly spread to all but three U.S. states. By early December, over 4,300 cases had been reported, with college campuses being the hardest hit.

Prevention

Since the late 1960's, a mumps vaccine has been available, either as part of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or as a standalone (monovalent) mumps vaccine.

Vaccination can prevent infection and is currently recommended for children age 12 to 15 months prior to entry into kindergarten, with a second dose given between the ages of 4 to six.Moreover, any adult born after 1957 should get their MMR shots if they have not previously done so.

Are People With HIV at Greater Risk?

Anyone who has not developed immunity to the mumps during childhood can become infected. Since the advent of routine mumps vaccination in the 1960s, most people do have immunity to the mumps, including those people living with HIV/AIDS.

But it's not always the case. There are occasions when a vaccination does not result in immunity, meaning the body has failed produce enough antibodies to fight infection.

Since many people can't recall their childhood vaccinations, it's always good to get immunized if you are in doubt and have HIV.

Currently, the vaccine is only recommended for persons with HIV who have a CD4 count of over 200 cells/mL.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).. "HIV Infection and Adult Vaccination." Atlanta, Georgia. 

Wall Street Journal. "Mumps Outbreaks are Worst in a Decade." Published December 5, 2016.