An outbreak of mumps that began in September 2014 among students at the Moscow campus of the University of Idaho continues to spread outside the Moscow area. Idaho has 21 reported confirmed and probable cases, including six in the Boise area, as of Friday, Feb. 6. Two cases in Washington also are associated with this outbreak.

mumpsThe measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps and measles. Public health officials urge students and people who come in close contact with them to check their vaccination records to make certain they are current for MMR vaccine. Examples of close contact include face-to-face contact or living in the same home. Mumps also spreads easily from sharing saliva through kissing, shared eating utensils or water bottles.

University of Idaho students and those in close contact with them who have not previously had mumps or who have no record of any doses of MMR vaccine should receive two doses at least 28 days apart. Those who received only one dose should receive a second dose. Student health services, primary care providers, local public health offices, and local pharmacies may offer the vaccine. The MMR vaccine will also protect against measles, which is increasing in the western U.S. because of a large outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

Mumps is a contagious virus that spreads from person-to-person via droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks. An infected person can spread the virus before being sick. The virus is also spread when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands, and then someone else touches the same item or surface and rubs their mouth or nose.

Symptoms, which can appear up to 25 days after being exposed, may include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen or tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides of the head. The most common complication of mumps infection in adults is testicular inflammation, which can lead to infertility. Rare complications include meningitis, encephalitis, inflammation of the ovaries, and deafness. Anyone experiencing mumps symptoms should contact a healthcare professional. Nearly half of people with mumps have very mild or no symptoms and might not know they are infected.

Anyone infected with the mumps virus should stay home for five days after symptoms begin and minimize close contact with other people. They should avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils and should cover all coughs and sneezes, wash their hands frequently with soap and water, and regularly clean frequently-touched surfaces.