As Mumps Outbreak Spreads in Washington, DOH Calls for Immunization


Due to the multi-county spread of mumps in Washington, health department officials are calling for individuals to receive the MMR vaccine.

The mumps outbreak that the United States saw last year will go down as the largest outbreak in a decade, with states across the country continuing to report new cases. Due to this spread, the Washington State Department of Health is urging individuals to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in an effort to prevent further spread of the disease.

As of February 2nd, the health department reported a total of 349 confirmed and probable cases in the state of Washington, with the most cases (173) presiding in King County. The second largest number of cases has been reported by Spokane County (123), followed by Pierce County, which has, thus far, reported 41 probable/confirmed cases. Grant and Snohomish counties have each reported four probable/confirmed cases, Ferry County has reported two, and Thurston and Yakima counties have reported one each.

Although mumps is no longer incredibly common in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), outbreaks are occurring all around the country. Mumps is an infectious disease that begins with a number of symptoms ranging from fever and headache, to tiredness and appetite loss. One of the most notable symptoms that tend to present later on is the swelling of salivary glands. The good news is that this disease can be prevented; all individuals have to do is receive the MMR vaccine, a vaccine that is not only effective, but safe. According to the CDC, “The mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88% (range: 66-95%) effective when a person gets two doses; one dose is about 78% (range: 49-92%) effective.”

The CDC recommends that children receive two MMR vaccine doses—the first one when the child is 12 to 15 months old, and the second one between 4 and 6 years of age. They also note that both teenagers and adults should be up-to-date on their vaccinations as well. According to the CDC, the majority of individuals who contract measles are, in fact, unvaccinated. Such was the case in a recent outbreak occurring in California. Upon reviewing the outbreak, the California Department of Public Health learned that approximately half the patients who had become infected were never vaccinated, either due to being too young or due to personal beliefs.

Despite these personal beliefs, Dave Johnson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health said in a report from Gizmodo, “The MMR vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best protection we have against mumps. Two doses give lifelong protection against mumps to…about 9 out of 10 people.”

The health department is currently conducting an investigation for the mumps outbreak in addition to coordinating a number of prevention activities. According to the Washington DOH, they are providing “laboratory testing, disease investigation services, and resources and services to support counties where the illnesses are happening.”

The Washington State Department of Health cautions individuals to “avoid kissing, hugging, and other close contact with anyone who is suspected of having mumps.” They remind the public that if they are exhibiting any symptoms, they should stay home to prevent further transmission of the disease. Individuals who suspect infection should immediately contact their healthcare providers.

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