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Thousands of cheerleaders may have been exposed to mumps

Health officials are warning that thousands of cheerleaders who attended a national competition in Texas last month may have been exposed to the mumps.  According to a letter issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services, someone with the illness attended the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) All-Star National Championship in Dallas and may have put anyone who competed or was there from Feb. 23 to 25 at risk.

More than 23,000 cheerleaders and 2,600 coaches attended the championship event, according to the NCA. The athletes came from 39 U.S. states and nine countries.

Mumps is a contagious viral illness that spreads through the saliva and respiratory droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be spread by sharing cups and utensils.

Symptoms of mumps include swollen or tender salivary glands, swollen or tender testicles in men, low grade fever, tiredness, and muscle aches. However, many people do not have any symptoms at all.

It typically takes about 14 to 18 days after exposure for symptoms to appear, but it can take as long as 25 days. Someone with mumps is infectious three days before to five days after swollen glands appear. People without symptoms may still spread the virus.

In most instances, mumps is fairly mild and people recover within two weeks. However, in some cases it can lead to serious complications like meningitis, deafness, or swelling of the brain. In rare cases, mumps can become deadly.

The best way to prevent the mumps is to get vaccinated. Most children receive the first mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years.

Officials urge everyone who attended the NCA competition to be on the lookout for mumps symptoms and to contact a health care provider if the illness is suspected.