Don’t look now, but yet another illness is back on the radar.

This year, mumps has stricken more than 1,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cases have mostly been college students, although members of the National Hockey League have also had an outbreak, with 14 players in the NHL getting mumps.

The CDC reports that mumps is caused by a virus. The contagious illness starts with “fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling of salivary glands.”

It is spread by “droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks,” the CDC says.

There is no specific treatment, but there is a vaccination available for it.

And therein lies the problem.

Children need to follow the immunization schedule, and get their vaccinations on time. It’s now recommended that children have two doses of the vaccine – one between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

Part of the issue, according to the Mayo Clinic, is that the vaccination works best when people have had two doses. However, the recommendations for a second dose didn’t begin until the late 1980s or early 1990s. So many young adults don’t have the protection that they should – and may need a booster shot now.

And while the number of cases is relatively low, it’s a situation to which we should pay attention.

Before the vaccination was available, mumps struck 186,000 Americans a year, according to the CDC. And in rare severe cases, it can cause deafness and encephalitis.

The Mayo Clinic notes that the illness can spread quickly in unvaccinated populations, so those vaccines are especially critical.

So parents, it’s a good idea to make sure your child is up to date on their vaccinations. And if you fall into that gap that didn’t get a second dose, ask your doctor if it’s something you should do.

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