After news of a possible mumps outbreak at the Harris County Jail, authorities confirmed Thursday morning that seven people inside the jail are confirmed to have the virus
An inmate at the downtown jailhouse showed symptoms of the mumps back in May, according to Dr. David Persse, public health authority for Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services. No new cases of the mumps showed up until last week, when several inmates started showing symptoms of the virus.
In all, authorities identified 14 potential cases earlier this week, as first reported by the Houston Chronicle. Of those, seven were confirmed through blood tests, while blood tests on the other seven have yet to be returned.
Of the seven, six are inmates and one is a jail staff members.
Mumps is a fairly mild virus that can present serious complications to a small percentage of people, Persse said. Typical symptoms are a fever, body aches, headaches, fatigue and swelling of the salivary glands.
Some people can carry the mumps virus without exhibiting symptoms, Persse said, but they can still transmit it. Mumps is transmitted by certain bodily fluid contact, such as by sharing a drink or coughing on someone.
For certain people, especially pregnant women, mumps can have more serious symptoms, including brain and reproductive organ swelling.
Persse urged people to get vaccinate for mumps, which is included in the set of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination typically administered to children at an early age.
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According to the Oxford Vaccine Group, by being vaccinated an individual is not only protected from being infected themselves but they then also cannot pass this infection onto other people, where it may cause severe disease. However, for herd immunity to work a large proportion (90 to 95 percent) of the population need to be vaccinated.
In Houston, only 87.8 percent of the population has the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers were gathered in a 2017 study, which is the most recent available.
“There are certain people in our society who will suffer greatly for it,” Persse said. “We can prevent this. We have the tools.”
In the jail, the 14 people have been removed from the general population. Others who were in contact with the original 14 people – all of whom have yet to show any mumps symptoms – have been quarantined, which is standard protocol, Persse said