Health officials in Gallatin County, Montana are reporting on four mumps cases among students in Belgrade schools. All of the confirmed cases attend Belgrade High School or Belgrade Middle School.

Image/James Gathany
Image/James Gathany

Mumps is a viral disease characterized by swelling of the parotid or salivary glands along the face, neck and jaw. The swelling can last from two to ten days. The incubation period, (time from when you were infected to when you have symptoms) is 12-25 days. Other symptoms, in addition to the swelling around the neck and jaw, include fever, malaise (tiredness), muscle aches and headache. Up to 25% of people with mumps may have few or no symptoms.

Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person. Saliva can pass from one person to another when they share straws, spoons, forks, cups, cans, bottles and even lip gloss. Mumps is also commonly spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and a non-infected person inhales respiratory droplets that contain the virus.

If you do have mumps, you should avoid prolonged, close contact with other people until at least five days after your salivary glands begin to swell because you are contagious during this time.

Parents of children who may be most susceptible to mumps will be notified by staff from Gallatin City-County Health Department who will provide information and health care guidance. In most cases, students who are most susceptible to mumps are those who have not been vaccinated against the disease.

The good news is that guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control has determined that unimmunized students can return to school immediately if they are vaccinated against mumps.

Students who have religious or medical exemptions for the MMR vaccine may be excluded from school for 25 days or more, depending on the course of the outbreak. But again, if students are vaccinated with the MMR vaccine they can return to school immediately.