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DOH investigates outbreak at Torrance County detention facility

The state Health Department is praising officials at the Torrance County Detention Facility for helping to contain a mumps outbreak.

“They communicated with DOH early and implemented our recommendations to control the outbreak,” state epidemiologist Chad Smelser said of an investigation into seven cases at the facility.

Smelser said an outbreak of the mumps in New Mexico is a rare thing, but cases have been on the rise in the past couple of years.

“Up until last year, we usually had one or two sporadic cases,” he said. “Last year, we had six. This year, we’ve had 37.”

About 20 of the cases this year have involved detainees from other countries, including those in the Torrance County facility.

“From talking with our counterparts in Mexico, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, there appears to be a fair amount of mumps activity in Mexico and countries south of Mexico,” Smelser said.

The risk of mumps in the state is still pretty low, Smelser said, because the rate of immunization in New Mexico is high.

But DOH is asking residents to keep their guard up.

Mumps is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air and by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also spread through shared use of drinks, cups or eating utensils and, on occasion, through contaminated surfaces. If you are exposed to mumps, you may become ill up to 25 days after the exposure, the DOH said in a release.

“The best way to protect yourself and your community from mumps is to be vaccinated.” NMDOH Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “Mumps and other diseases are not limited to isolated locations, they can be transmitted anywhere. Contact your health care provider or a pharmacy, and protect you and those around you from infection.”

The symptoms of mumps include: swollen and tender salivary glands under the ear or jaw on one or both sides of the face, fever, headache and muscle aches.

DOH is asking residents who are experiencing the symptoms to stay home and contact their health care provider.

“Do not go to work or school until five days after the onset of swollen and tender salivary glands, or until symptoms go away – whichever is later,” the DOH release said. “Contact your health care provider before seeking medical care so as not to expose others to mumps in the waiting room.”

Clinicians who suspect mumps should consult with the Health Department. New Mexico residents with questions about mumps may call 505-827-0006.

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