Local cheerleaders among thousands exposed to mumps during Dallas competition

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - On Monday, cheer coaches from across the country received an email from the National Cheerleaders Association saying anyone who attended the Dallas All-Star National Championship in February might have been exposed to the mumps.

More than 23,000 cheerleaders from 39 different states attended the competition, including 80 athletes from ThunderElite in Bryan.

"They didn't say what gym, didn't say age division. It just said what it was and to let our parents know," said ThunderElite owner Nicole Podraza. The Department of State Health Services did indicate that an out-of-state competitor had the mumps during the event.

Monica Smith, a parent whose daughter attended the competition, couldn't believe that someone would put that many people at risk.

"I understand that cheer competitions are very important, just like with any sport that you play, but it's not really fair to knowingly jeopardize so many people," said Smith. According to Mary Parrish with the Brazos County Health Department, the mumps are spread through droplets, like saliva.

"People are engaging in physical activity. They're sweating. Chances are they are sharing drinks. They're also in pretty close quarters. I would say it's a breeding zone for something like this to get spread," said Parrish.

"There are 12 different warm up floors. Those kids, they have their hands on the warm up floor and then they're walking to warm ups, they're touching their face, so they are always in contact with each other," said Podraza.

Although Smith's daughter is vaccinated against the mumps, she still worries about the other athletes that were in attendance.

"We need to make sure that we are preparing them for any sort of exposure. We don't know what it's going to be, whether it's measles, mumps, or whatever, we just need to make sure we are arming them well," said Smith.

"There's no way you can police whether or not everyone has a shot, because even if you said all the athletes had to have their medical records turned in, you can't police who comes, you can't police the spectators. At the end of the day, it's kid of on the honor system," said Podraza.

During the next few days, cheerleaders, coaches and parents are said to look out for the following symptoms which include a fever, puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.