Four mumps cases reported in Whitman County, awaiting confirmation results

From staff reports

Four cases of the mumps have recently been reported in Whitman County, though the suspected cases are awaiting lab results for confirmation.

Washington residents reported 694 confirmed and probable cases of the mumps statewide as of March 29, according to the Washington State Department of Health. An outbreak of the contagious disease has spread across much of the U.S. in the past year, causing the highest number of cases in the country since 2006, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Symptoms of the mumps include headache, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, swollen testicles and swollen glands under the cheeks, neck and jaw. These non-treatable symptoms typically last between a week and ten days. Although rare, the disease can cause complications, such as hearing loss, meningitis, brain damage and even death, according to the Department of Health.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said the disease is communicable through saliva and mucus from the nose, mouth or throat. It is commonly spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, touching surfaces with unwashed hands and sharing eating or drinking utensils. The mumps is easily spread in large group settings, such as on sports teams or college campuses, according to the CDC.

“Primarily, in schools is where you see the biggest risk,” Magee Davis, Whitman County Health Department nurse, said.

About two-thirds of mumps cases occur in school-aged children, Davis said. This is because many students haven’t been immunized yet due to their age, or they are students with younger siblings who aren’t vaccinated, Davis said.

The CDC recommends that individuals get vaccinated against the mumps. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is a common immunization, the first dose of which is given to children between 12 and 15 months old. The second dose is given to children between four and six years old, according to the CDC. However, even immunized individuals can still contract the mumps, as the MMR vaccine is only 88 percent effective, according to the CDC.

The best way to protect yourself and others from contacting the mumps is to get vaccinated if you have not been already, Davis said. However, Davis recommended that those who wish to remain unvaccinated use simple preventative measures such as covering coughs, frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces, such as doorknobs or countertops.

Davis also recommended that individuals double-check their mumps immunization status, as often times people mistakenly believe they were vaccinated as a child. In addition, older adults should ask their doctor if they need to be re-vaccinated, as the MMR vaccine becomes less effective over time, she said.

Reporting by Will DeMarco