Honduran authorities have declared a medical state of emergency following an outbreak of mumps in the country — over 5,000 cases of the viral infection have been reported since January.
The Honduran Ministry of Health announced a state of emergency for the northern department of Cortes where 3,740 of the 5,500 cases have been reported. Over 850 people are suffering from the viral disease in the Cortes capital city of San Pedro Sula. Only 81 cases of the disease were reported last year in that city.
The outbreak has prompted the Association of Honduran Factories (AHM) to initiate a vaccination campaign for all employees and their children in the heavily industrialized area of San Pedro Sula.
Tesla Callejas, director of AHM's communications and marketing said the association is alarmed because at least three factories in the area are experiencing a surge in cases of the contagious disease. Callejas said the AHM has coordinated efforts with the Regional Health Department of Cortes to deliver the vaccine to more than 2,500 factory workers, so far.
"This is not a massive vaccine. It was bought to stop the outbreak. Employees who were not sick were vaccinated.” The communications director added that workers’ kids under the age of five were also immunized because “sick children creates work absenteeism," said Callejas.
She added that the association didn’t have a firm count on how many of its factory workers have contracted the virus.
Lorena Martinez, director of the Metropolitan Regional Health board, said mumps is a "viral disease typical at this time of year” as Honduras transitions into winter.
Martinez added that for the last few weeks the Cortes Secretary of Health has been vaccinating in schools and other places with concentrated populations.
The Honduran Ministry of Health said this week that there are currently 3,266,931 adults within the country susceptible to mumps because they never received the vaccine as children.
Mumps is a viral infection that attacks the glands mainly around the face causing swelling and headaches in most cases. Vomiting is also often a symptom of the disease.
Infectious disease specialist at the Honduran University Hospital (HEU), Tito Alvarado, told local reporters, "Mumps is usually a viral infection that is acquired in childhood, but is very rare in adults."
Alvarado explained that "this outbreak in adults is happening because they never got the vaccine in their childhood and they don’t have antibodies (to protect them) so the virus is producing mumps."
The virus can also negatively affect reproductive organs in adults, says Alvarado.
The Honduran Ministry of Health recommends the use of masks around those with the communicable disease. Those infected should avoid sharing utensils and disinfect all areas around those sick, say ministry officials.
From 2013 until 2017 there were only 138 cases of mumps annually in the Central American country.
Dr. Alvarado says that the outbreak is due mainly to the lack of vaccine usuage in the past two decades.