AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some blocks of Harris County Jail in Houston are under quarantine Thursday after more than half a dozen people were sickened with the mumps virus, according to the Houston Health Department.
Jail medical staff first noticed the issue when an inmate displayed symptoms of mumps in mid-May and soon after several other inmates and two jail staffers also began displaying symptoms, officials wrote. The Houston Health Department visited the jail to then coordinate response efforts including vaccination of the jail staff, inmates, isolations and quarantine guidelines. Officials don’t believe the disease has spread beyond the jail.
Health officials say it’s common to see infectious diseases like mumps spread quickly in small shared spaces like jails. In February, seven people detained by ICE in Houston were diagnosed with mumps and a month later, it was reported that 200 prisoners across the state were quarantined in connection with the disease. In March 2018, at least four cases of mumps were also detected at Texas State University.
Symptoms of the mumps virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite and swollen glands under the ears or jaw.
“An infected person can spread mumps by coughing or sneezing and releasing tiny droplets of contaminated saliva, which can then be breathed in by another person,” officials wrote.
Mumps is among the three diseases that can be prevented by the MMR vaccine, along with measles and rubella. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 88% effective against mumps, officials say.
“This is yet another reminder about the importance of proper vaccination against vaccine preventable diseases like mumps,” said Dr. David Persse, Public Health Authority with the City of Houston. “Proper vaccination is not only about protecting the individual receiving the vaccine, it’s about protecting everyone who comes into contact with that person.”