The Will County Health Department is warning residents to be proactive in staying healthy as the winter months continue.
The department’s epidemiologist, Alpesh Patel, specifically wants residents to be vigilant now that local cases of both influenza and the mumps are on the rise, according to a news release.
“It’s simply that time of year,” Patel said. “What we want people to realize is that if you have the usual flu symptoms, such as upper respiratory problems, fever, cough and nasal congestion, you need to take action if the first sign of mumps appears as well.”
Specifically, Patel said, salivary gland swelling, which usually causes pain or discomfort in the lower jaw area, should not be ignored or dismissed. He said as soon as anyone notices any discomfort or swelling, they need to take all precautions for mumps.
They should isolate themselves from others and not attend any kind of event where they could possibly spread the virus.
Patel warned that even if someone with possible symptoms of mumps has already been immunized with the standard two doses of the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine, it doesn’t mean they are immune.
Between December and January, there were six confirmed, 14 probable and two suspected cases of mumps at Lewis University in Romeoville.
“We are seeing cases where those with both MMR doses are acquiring the mumps, because like so many other viruses and influenza strains, the illness mutates and adjusts to our bodies and medications over long periods of time,” Patel said. “So saying to yourself, ‘I’m immunized, this could be not the mumps,’ could be a big mistake.”
If someone notices any lower jaw pain, discomfort or swelling on top of flu-like symptoms, they should contact their medical provider by phone. Patel said their medical provider may advise for them to stay home and isolate themselves for five days, or they might ask the patient to come in to the office at a certain time when it will be safer and there is less of a chance for others to be exposed.
Specific to the flu, while this year’s numbers don’t seem to be as high as last year’s, the number of cases does follow the usual trend for an increase in cases in January.
“It is never too late to get your flu shot, no matter how far we are into the season,” Patel said. “While it may not prevent you from getting the flu at this point, it can certainly reduce the severity of the illness.”