What’s up with mumps?

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LENEXA, Kan. -- Mumps, a disease that was nearly eradicated in the U.S., is making a comeback.  More than a thousand cases have been reported this year, including an outbreak now in hockey players.

The puck isn't the only thing that National Hockey League players are passing.  Fourteen players and referees have had mumps, and one player may have exposed patients at a Pittsburgh children's hospital.

Mumps is a viral infection with telltale swelling of the salivary glands along with fever, fatigue and aches.  There have been double the number of cases in the U.S. this year compared to last.  So what's going on?

"There's pockets of folks that choose not to immunize, and then there are pockets of folks, even though they're immunized, they just do not respond.  Their bodies do not produce the antibody response necessary to fight that off," said Dr. Travis Keller of Shawnee Mission Primary Care.

The Centers for Disease Control says overall, the two-dose MMR vaccine is 88 percent protective against mumps.  But immunity wanes over the years.  Most of us had our last dose when we entered kindergarten.

"That's when your immunity would be highest.  It does tend to dissipate as you age," said Dr. Keller.

You can get a booster shot.  But Dr. Keller says there isn't a great need now for most of us to get one.  He says people at higher risk, such as health care workers, may want to get tested.

"Getting titer levels checked through a blood test would be the most effective way to see -- are you currently immune or do you need the booster at all?" he said.

Mumps is spread through sneezing and coughing.  That helps explain the outbreak in hockey players who are in close contact and in close quarters.  The incubation period is up to three weeks, so it will be awhile before it's clear whether the outbreak has ended.

There have been two reported mumps cases in Kansas and six cases in Missouri so far this year.

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