Texas health officials have warned tens of thousands of cheerleaders that they may have been exposed to the mumps last month at a national competition in Dallas.
After learning that someone with the illness had attended the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship, state health officials issued a warning about possible exposure.
“Be alert for symptoms through March 22,” the Texas Department of State Health Services tweeted. In a letter, the agency noted that mumps “is a contagious viral illness.”
A state health spokesman told The Washington Post that a person contagious with mumps had traveled from another state to the national championship, but that there have been no reports in Texas of people developing the mumps in connection with the case. The spokesman, Chris Van Deusen, said the department had not received reports of cases in other states, either, but acknowledged that the “incubation period” is coming to an end.
“The next few days will probably be telling,” he said Wednesday.
Van Deusen said participants have been advised to watch for symptoms of the virus.
Officials with the National Cheerleaders Association could not immediately be reached for comment.
The association said last month that more than 23,000 athletes and 2,600 coaches participated in the competition from Feb. 23 to 25 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
They traveled from 39 states and nine countries, according to the organization.
“Mumps outbreaks can occur any time of year,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns. “A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team, or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps.”
The state’s letter to participants, sent Friday, advised them about the situation and provided details about the mumps and its symptoms.
“If you, your child, or any other individuals linked to this event experience or have experienced mumps symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider and inform them of your exposure to mumps,” Antonio Aragon, a state health official, wrote in the letter.
Mumps is a contagious virus that causes the salivary glands in the face to become swollen, according to the CDC.
Symptoms can include fever, headache and muscle aches, as well as a swollen jaw and cheeks, and typically occur 16 to 18 days after a person contracts the virus, according to the CDC.
The Mayo Clinic states that the virus is spread by saliva — by “breathing in saliva droplets of an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed” or from “sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps.”
There is no specific treatment, but the virus usually clears up within a few weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, about 186,000 cases were reported each year, but the actual number of cases was likely much higher due to underreporting,” according to the CDC. “Since the pre-vaccine era, there has been a more than 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States. Since the two-dose vaccination program was introduced in 1989, mumps cases have ranged year to year from a couple of hundred to several thousand.
“However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases, from 229 cases in 2012 to 6,366 cases in 2016. The recent increase has been mainly due to multiple mumps outbreaks reported across the country in settings where people often have close contact with one another, like college campuses.”
This post has been updated.