Mumps outbreak widens at UW

30 Sick Man in BedThe number of mumps cases continues to rise across the state of Washington, including at the University of Washington. As of March 8, 2017, the UW has reported 12 cases of mumps. All of the cases to-date are students who are associated with several sororities and fraternities. The UW notified the campus community about the first case on February 17.

With the rising number of cases around the state and at UW, there’s greater possibility that anyone could be exposed to mumps while out and about in the community. That’s why it’s important for everyone to know the signs and symptoms of mumps, and to take steps to reduce the risk of becoming infected. Even if you are vaccinated, you can still get mumps so all people should be diligent about symptoms and stay home if ill.

What is mumps and what are the symptoms?

Mumps is an illness caused by a virus that can cause fever, headache, and swelling of the cheeks and jaw. Some men and boys may develop swelling of the testicles. In rare cases, mumps can lead to more serious complications that may require hospitalization, like swelling of the brain, deafness, and infertility. But it’s also possible to have mumps and not even know it. Up to 30% of people with mumps infection will have no symptoms.

How is mumps spread?

A person with mumps can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, or spraying saliva while talking. It can also be spread by sharing cups, forks or other utensils, and by touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others.

How can you prevent mumps?

  • Get mumps vaccine (included in the MMR vaccine) if you have not already had two doses.
  • Stay away from anyone who has mumps.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Don’t share cups, spoons, forks, or anything that someone else’s mouth has touched.

What to do if you think you have mumps

  • Call your doctor if you have the signs of mumps: fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen cheeks or jaw.
  • Stay home and away from other people. Do not go to school or work for five days after your cheeks or jaw become swollen.This includes staying away from people in your household as much as possible so they don’t get sick. College students who live in shared housing, like sorority or fraternity houses or dormitories, should ask for a private room and have someone deliver meals, or even consider staying at the home of a parent or family member while sick.

For more information about why vaccinated people have acquired the mumps, read the blog post by our health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, “Mumps Outbreaks: Why do we are and is the vaccine working?

Originally posted on March 8, 2017.

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.