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Washington State mumps outbreak: 278 cases reported in 5 counties

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Washington State reported on Wednesday that there have been 278 confirmed and probable cases of mumps across five counties since October 2016: King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane and Yakima. Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus spread from person to person through saliva and mucus.

To stop the spread, Washington health officials urge people to get vaccinated and to take precautions to help stop the spread of mumps.

“The best protection against mumps is the MMR vaccine,” said Dave Johnson, a spokesman for the state’s health department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, though it is not 100% effective.

If you suspect someone of having mumps, you should avoid kissing, hugging and other close contact. Anyone feeling sick should contact their healthcare providers or call local health departments or the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588, said Washington health authorities.

“We are telling folks if you’re sick or you think you have mumps, stay home,” said Johnson, adding that this advice is especially true for kids and folks in contact with schools, universities and colleges.

Mumps typically begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite lasting a few days. Most people will then see salivary glands swell, causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw. Although the incubation period ranges from 12 days to 25, symptoms last at least two days, but usually more than 10 days.

Mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. These include deafness and inflammation of the brain, ovaries, breast tissue or testicles. Occasionally, mumps can cause encephalitis, which in rare cases can lead to death, says the CDC.

Because it is caused by a virus, mumps will not respond to antibiotics. Doctors generally recommend bed rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.

“Our goal is simple: stopping the outbreak by helping local healthcare providers,” said Johnson. “Make sure you and your family members receive health care.”

The outbreak began about a month ago with no real “trigger point,” said Johnson. “When you have an outbreak like this it happens sometimes in one county and it kind of spreads.” He noted that people in close contact, such as those attending schools, universities and churches, could become affected if one person among them becomes sick.

Vaccination

Each year, the number of mumps cases fluctuates within a range of a couple hundred to a couple thousand cases, explained Dr. Manisha Patel, a medical officer at the CDC. During 2016, a total of 5,311 cases of the mumps occurring in 46 states and the District of Columbia were reported to the CDC.

The CDC recommends that children get their first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. In people who receive just one shot, the vaccine is less effective. The alternative MMVR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox), is licensed for use in children between the ages of 12 months and 12 years.

The MMR vaccine effectiveness is 88% with two doses. This means that if you have a room of 100 vaccinated people and you expose them to the mumps, 12 of them will still become sick.

In December, the CDC said that most of the individual state outbreaks had been occurring among vaccinated people. Outbreaks in recent years, most notably one involving NHL players in 2014, have spurred debate over the need for a third dose of vaccine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — a panel of medical and public health experts who meet three times a year to offer vaccination guidance for the United States — is considering the recommendation of a third dose of vaccine.

Before the US mumps vaccination program started in 1967, the CDC received reports of 186,000 cases each year. Since most doctors considered the mumps a typical childhood disease, the actual number of cases was likely much higher. Cases decreased by more than 99% in the US in the years following the vaccination program.