Kampala, Uganda: Mumps is characterised by painful enlargement of the salivary glands.
Dr Richard Idro advises that a child with mumps should drink plenty of fluids and eat soft foods that don’t need a lot of chewing. Do not give sour foods or liquids. The salivary glands are very sore during mumps.
- Eating these foods will usually cause them to hurt more. Soothe the swollen parotid glands with either warm or cool compress. This will reduce the pain and the swelling. You can also give medicines such as paracetamol to bring down the fever or ease pain if your child remains uncomfortable. Do not give antibiotics.
At least 20 districts have registered an increase in cases of mumps, according to an online survey carried out by a group of doctors.
According to Dr Richard Idro, the associate professor of paediatrics and child health, Makerere University and a consultant at Mulago Hospital, the perception is that initial cases may have been between July and October but spread countrywide this month.
The most affected districts include Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Masaka, Kyenjojo, Lira, Soroti, Serere, Mbale, Agago, Adjumani, Gulu, Kiryadongo, Jinja, Kabarole, Busia, and Mbarara.
“Although many doctors in other districts indicated that they each saw between one and five cases, in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Mbarara, Kyenjojo and Soroti, several doctors and especially paediatricians, reported seeing more than five cases each and some, several cases daily. Some children were presenting with unusual symptoms,” Dr Idro said.
He said mumps is a very contagious illness caused by a virus and usually affects children.
Affected children develop fever and pain in the throat and in the glands that produce saliva. These glands, and especially the parotid near the ear, get swollen.
A woman in Wakiso, who preferred anonymity, told this publication that two of her grandchildren suffered mumps in October and November.
“I was not sure what was wrong, I took them to a clinic and I was told they were suffering from mumps. The health workers told me that it has been a problem in the community and many children have been presenting with mumps,” she said.
“One of the children got healed within two weeks but later got reinfected. During the same period, I also got mumps but I suspect I got it from the children,” the grandmother added.
Dr. Edison Mworozi, a senior consultant paediatrician, said mumps is spread through contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, and throat when an infected child coughs or sneezes.
Children can stay with the virus between one to seven days before symptoms appear. The virus can also stay on surfaces such as doorknobs, utensils, and cups.
However, Dr Mworozi said it is not alarming since mumps is seasonal and especially affects children in school.
Adults can also suffer from mumps.
“If you are an adult and get in contact with the fluids of an infected person, you get infected,” Dr Mworozi said.
“Mumps is one of the viral illnesses against which you should develop immunity, so if you never suffered mumps as a child and you don’t develop immunity as an adult and if you are exposed, you can develop mumps,” Dr. Idro added.
According to health workers, there is no cure for mumps but the patient should be able to recover in one or two weeks. The treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms.
A number of countries immunise against mumps under the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR) as a preventive measure.
However, this is not part of the routine vaccination programme in Uganda. But according to Dr Mworozi, some private health facilities carry out vaccination.
Dr. Idro advised the government to reconsider the vaccination programme against mumps.
“The measles, mumps and rubella or MMR vaccine offers protection from the virus that causes mumps. However, in Uganda, the public health system does not offer the MMR vaccine, so, we have no vaccination programme against mumps,” Dr Idro said.
Experts note that in rare cases, serious complications can occur from suffering from mumps.
“Mumps may lead to meningitis or encephalitis, two potentially fatal conditions. Mumps may also inflame and damage the pancreas leading to pancreatitis and a long term risk of the child developing diabetes. Inflammation of the testis can result in infertility,” Dr Idro said.
Meningitis is the swelling of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord and encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain.
“Sometimes it can affect the ovaries and testis, especially in adolescents,” Dr Mworozi said.
Dr Jessica Nsungwa, the commissioner for Maternal and Child Health at the Ministry of Health, said in case of an increase in cases, they have teams at the district level to investigate and respond.
“Mumps is a highly infectious disease, so when it comes, it comes in clusters. But since children have broken off from school and have travelled outside Kampala, then we are likely to see some clusters outside Kampala but I think most of the cases are localised,” Dr Nsungwa said.