As thousands of cheerleaders exposed, what to know about the mumps

Texas health officials are warning the public about a possible mumps exposure.

Texas health officials are warning the public that thousands of cheerleaders may have been exposed to mumps at a national competition in Dallas last month.

Competitors from 39 states and nine countries were present at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25, according to the Dallas Morning News, where they may have been exposed to the disease after a person with mumps attended the event.

Following this potential exposure, there have been no reported cases to date, though symptoms may not appear for two weeks or at all.

What is mumps and what happens to your body if you get it?

Is it contagious?

Mumps is as contagious as influenza and rubella, but less so than for measles or varicella. The mumps virus, spread in the same way as influenza, can be contagious at least 5 days from onset of facial swelling.

What are the symptoms?

Some people experience no symptoms at all. In most people, they may have a fever, feel tired and achy, have a headache, or have a loss in appetite. About two weeks after being exposed to the virus, the parotid gland (in your face, right in front of the ears and above the jaw) becomes swollen, known as parotitis. A swollen face is a classic sign of mumps.

How is it diagnosed?

Are there precautions people should take to help prevent mumps?

What are possible complications?

The most common complication is orchitis (testicular inflammation), which can lead to sterility. Other complications seen more commonly before the MMR vaccine included pancreatitis, deafness, and even death.

What are the treatments?

Dr. Hector M. Florimon is a third-year resident in pediatrics at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, working in the ABC News Medical Unit.