Updated April 14, 2017 at 4:25 p.m.

Mumps Outbreak in Pierce County, WA

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department continues to investigate mumps cases among residents. The outbreak started in south King County in November of 2016, but diseases don't stop at political boundaries. Mumps is a contagious viral illness. Immunization is the most effective way to prevent it. Make sure you and your family are up to date on your measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations.

As of April 14, the breakdown of cases among Pierce County residents includes:

  • Confirmed cases: 19.
  • Probable cases: 40.
  • Confirmed and probable cases ≤ 17 years old: 61%.
  • Up to date on MMR vaccine: 68%.*
*Information unchanged from March 23.

These data will be updated regularly as new information comes in. Several confirmed and many more suspected cases of mumps have been reported among residents of South King County. Most of the people with mumps are school age children, but mumps can affect people of any age.


Mumps letter sent to schools (12/08/2016)

Mumps Outbreak Guidance for Schools (01/04/2017)

Mumps Toolkit for Healthcare Providers (01/04/2017)

Mumps Information Flyer: EnglishMarshallese, Spanish, Ukranian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese

Thumbnail- Mumps

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is mumps?

A: Mumps is caused by a virus. It is usually rare in the United States because most people have received immunizations to protect them against mumps. People born before 1957 are probably immune to mumps because most people had the disease before the immunizations were routinely given starting in the early 1970s. Mumps is spread by close face-to-face contact with a person who has the infection.

Q: What are the symptoms of mumps?

A: Mumps is best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes. This is a result of swollen salivary glands.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • TirednessThumbnail - Mumps Doc
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one of both sides (parotitis).

Symptoms usually appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12-25 days after infection. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.

Q: What are the complications of mumps?

A: Most people with mumps have no complications and recover completely in a few weeks. The most common complication is orchitis, which is inflammation of the testicles which can cause swelling and pain. This can happen in up to 10% of adolescent and adult men with mumps. Less commonly, inflammation of the ovaries in girls and women can also occur, causing pain (oophoritis). Rare complications include inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord (encephalitis/ meningitis) and hearing loss which may be permanent. 

Q: News reports have said that for the current outbreak in King County, most of the people have had mumps immunizations, yet they still got mumps. Does this mean the vaccine doesn’t work?

A: No. MMR vaccine prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease. People who have received two doses of the MMR vaccine are about nine times less likely to get mumps than unvaccinated people who have the same exposure to mumps virus. However, some people who receive two doses of MMR can still get mumps, especially if they have prolonged, close contact with someone who has the disease, and it has been several years since they were vaccinated. If a vaccinated person does get mumps, they will likely have less severe illness than an unvaccinated person.

Before there was a vaccine, mumps was a common childhood disease in the United States. In some cases, the disease caused complications, such as permanent deafness in children and, occasionally, swelling of the brain (encephalitis), which in rare cases caused death. From year to year, the number of mumps cases can range from roughly a couple hundred to a couple thousand. In some years, there are more cases of mumps than usual because of outbreaks.

Q: How long is a person with mumps contagious?

A: A person with mumps should avoid prolonged, close contact with other people until at least five days after the start of the swollen glands because the person is contagious during this time. The time it takes for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed to the virus can range from 12 to 25 days. People who have mumps should not go to work or school, and stay home while they are contagious (5 days after the onset of gland swelling).

Q: What should I do during a mumps outbreak?

A:  The following actions are the best protection against mumps:

Make sure you are up to date on your MMR vaccine. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended, at age 12 months and then again age 4-6 years. For people who have never had the immunizations, they can catch up by getting 2 doses separated by a minimum of 28 days. (People born before 1/1/1957 are generally considered immune.

Let your doctor know right away if you think that you or someone in your family may have mumps.

In any situation, including when there is a mumps outbreak, washing hands (www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html) often with soap and water and having good health practices are the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, tables, counters.

For more information, see www.cdc.gov/mumps.