It’s a trying time at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are one loss away from their second straight two-win season, and they entered Friday’s season finale against Missouri having lost their five most recent games by 41, 41, 30, 26 and 36 points. Coach Chad Morris already has been fired. They might be in the running for the worst SEC team in history.

And now there’s the mumps. According to ESPN Arkansas personality John R. Nabors, as many as 15 Razorbacks players and a few coaches could miss Friday’s game because of the highly contagious viral disease. Kelli Stacy of the Athletic reports that 13 Arkansas players missed the game for a variety of reasons; the school would not confirm how many were due to mumps.

This week, the state Department of Health reported that it had confirmed nine cases of the mumps at the school. Two of those cases involved athletes at the school, according to an email sent Monday by Trevor Williamson, the athletic department’s tutor coordinator.

“Two student-athletes have been diagnosed with the mumps and they have been at the Jones Center recently,” Williamson wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “A few staff members in athletic training have also been quarantined. To be safe, we strongly recommend that everyone get the vaccine.”

Interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. was vague this week when a reporter suggested that football players had contracted the mumps.

“We know that, just based on the release, that there’s players, students here, that have been exposed to that, so as far as the diagnoses and those types of things, we’re being very proactive and giving our guys the best immunization or optimal health that we can give them,” Lunney said.

Arkansas cornerback Montaric Brown and linebacker Deon Edwards did not travel to last weekend’s game against LSU because of unspecified illnesses, though the school would not confirm that they or any other specific football players had the mumps.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, mumps outbreaks are still prevalent in the United States, though they’ve decreased significantly since the two-dose MMR vaccination program was introduced in 1989. Outbreaks are particularly common in “close-contact settings” such as “households, schools, universities, athletics teams and facilities, church groups, workplaces, and large parties and events.” In 2015 and 2016, more than 450 cases were confirmed at the University of Iowa, and last year there were a number of cases at Lewis University in Illinois.

Nearly 3,000 people in a close-knit, rural community in northwest Arkansas contracted the disease in 2016 and 2017, with the CDC calling it the second-largest mumps outbreak in the United States over the past 30 years.

Mumps is a viral disease that is spread by respiratory droplets or physical contact with an infected person. It is a more serious issue for adults than children and can lead to deafness if not properly cured.

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