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Three new mumps cases at Tacoma Public Schools

February 2, 2017

Two students at Stadium High School and additional student at Jason Lee Middle School contracted virus away from school

Unvaccinated and under vaccinated students can take steps to remain in school. For best protection and to attend school, students should be up to date on immunizations.

TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department received confirmation today that two students at Stadium High School and one more student at Jason Lee Middle School have mumps. This brings the total cases of mumps at Tacoma Public Schools to four. The students will not return until they are no longer contagious.

“We are seeing an increasing number of school children who are contracting mumps,” said Nigel Turner, communicable disease division director at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “While our available information shows that these cases were contracted outside of school, vaccination is especially critical to prevent disease transmission in the school setting,” Turner said.

Because mumps is highly contagious among people who are in close contact for prolonged periods, it can spread easily and quickly in a school setting. The new cases of mumps exposure happened away from school.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department recommends Tacoma Public Schools exclude unvaccinated and under vaccinated students from attending Stadium High School. The exclusion will begin Feb. 13 and may affect 20 of the school’s 1,517 students who have received one or no doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. At Jason Lee, an exclusion was already in effect for 20 of the school’s 528 students. The new mumps case at the middle school will extend the exclusion for unvaccinated and under vaccinated from Feb. 7 to Feb. 21. As soon as unvaccinated and under vaccinated students receive the required doses of the vaccine, the district will allow them to return to school. The school district has contacted the families of all affected students.

The vaccine is the best protection against mumps and is highly effective to prevent the virus and reduce outbreaks. Free immunizations are also available during most weekdays at the South Hill Mall. For a list of other dates and times and other immunization options visit www.tpchd.org/immunizations.

What is mumps?
Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness. An infected person can spread it through face-to-face contact by coughing, sneezing, or spraying saliva while talking. Mumps can also spread when people share cups and eating utensils. Mumps is a condition that health providers must report to the local health department when a probable or diagnosed case occurs.

What are the symptoms?
Mumps is best known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, the result of swollen salivary glands. Other symptoms are:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of Appetite
Up to 10% of teen boys and men can experience swelling of the testicles. Meningitis and encephalitis are rare but serious complications of mumps.

How can you prevent mumps?
Immunization is the most effective way to prevent mumps. Everyone should make sure they are up to date on their MMR vaccine. Children must have two doses of the MMR vaccine to attend school. Other ways to protect yourself:
  • Avoid contact with anyone infected with mumps.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Don’t share cups and eating utensils.
Who is more likely to get mumps?
  • Babies less than one year old.
  • Children older than one who have not received at least one dose of the MMR.
  • Adults born in or after 1957 who have not been vaccinated or have not had mumps before.
Recent mumps cases in the region started with an outbreak in south King County. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department identified the first Pierce County probable mumps cases Dec. 9. As of Feb. 2, the Health Department has received reports of 41 mumps cases. Get more information about mumps, including updated case counts at www.tpchd.org/mumps

“Diseases do not stop at county borders,” said Turner. “Public health is essential to control these outbreaks, limit their effects on the community, and inform the public about how to respond to disease threats,” he said.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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