Mumps have spread to two counties in Washington. King (54 cases, including 9 confirmed, 45 probable) and Pierce (4 probable cases) each have cases of mumps. The Washington State Department of Health is reminding people across the state to make sure they take precautions to help stop the spread of mumps.
Mumps is a contagious disease that spreads through saliva. Symptoms of mumps typically include low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Its most distinctive symptom is swelling of the cheeks, neck or jaw, though not everyone experiences this, and some people get no symptoms at all. It also can cause swelling of other glands such as the testicles. The illness lasts a week to ten days in most cases.
Mumps can be more serious in some people, and can lead to hearing loss, swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, or brain damage. There is no specific treatment for mumps.
Vaccination with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best protection against mumps. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 88% effective at preventing infection with the mumps virus. Children should be vaccinated with two doses of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four-to-six years. Adults should have at least one mumps vaccination, with some people needing two. People born before 1957 are considered immune because they probably had mumps, but everyone born in 1957 or later should be vaccinated.
“We’re asking people, especially in these two counties, to make sure everyone in their family has been fully vaccinated,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “While most people who get mumps will have a mild illness which goes away within a week or so, some people may experience serious health complications.”
Mumps vaccine gives lifelong protection to about 9 out of 10 people, but some people who are vaccinated can still get mumps. It’s important for everyone to be vaccinated; it helps protect people for whom the vaccine might not work as well, and also protects those who can’t be vaccinated because they are too young or have a medical condition that prevents it.
Because mumps spreads during close contact, children who are not protected against mumps by vaccination may be excluded from school in areas where mumps is spreading.
Mumps is usually not common in the United States because vaccination rates are generally good. However, in the past few years, outbreaks of mumps have occurred in several states, including Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Arkansas, Iowa and Texas.
The State Department of Health’s Immunization Program has more information about mumps and the MMR vaccine. If you think you never received mumps vaccine and there is an outbreak in your community, contact your healthcare provider for immunizations or a blood test. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call your local health department or the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.