Spokane, WA health officials announced Wednesday three cases of mumps in Whitworth University students. The first case occurred when one of the students was exposed to mumps while traveling outside the U.S. The other two cases were contracted through close contact with the first student. All three individuals were fully immunized against the mumps.

The three students are no longer contagious and were in isolation while symptomatic. To date, there are no other known or suspected cases of mumps among the Whitworth community. The risk of acquiring mumps to Spokane’s general population is low.

Image/Facebook (cropped)
Image/Facebook (cropped)

A measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps. Even in a highly vaccinated population it is possible that some people will get the illness. Whitworth requires students meet all of Washington state’s immunization requirements.

Close contacts of these three cases are being followed up with to monitor for symptoms. Whitworth University officials sent notifications to all other students and families.

Nancy Hines, Whitworth communications director said, “We take the health of our student, faculty and staff population seriously and are taking every precaution to mitigate the spread of mumps on our campus. With these three cases, we have armed our campus community with the necessary information to avoid the mumps infection.”

“Although we hope to contain this to just three cases, mumps is spread from person to person when in close contact with each other,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD interim health officer. “We urge individuals to make sure that they and their loved ones are up to date on the MMR vaccine.”

In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. Adults may have more serious disease and more complications.

Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by:

•    Coughing, sneezing, or talking.
•    Sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, with others.
•    Touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others.

The infectious period of mumps is three days before, to five days after, the onset of salivary gland swelling. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

Officials from the health district and Whitworth University advise students, faculty, or staff who experience mumps symptoms to seek medical care, either through Whitworth Student Health & Counseling Center at (509) 777-3259 or other health care provider.

Mumps virus/CDC
Mumps virus/CDC

Individuals who are concerned about getting the mumps can reduce their risk of becoming ill by:

•    Getting vaccinated against the mumps.

o    People who have received two doses of the MMR vaccine are about nine times less likely to get mumps than unvaccinated people who have the same exposure to mumps virus.
o    If a vaccinated person does get mumps, they will likely have less severe illness than an unvaccinated person.
o    Most children and young adults have received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are more effective than one dose.

•    Always covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
•    Washing hands frequently.
•    Disposing of used tissues and other similar objects appropriately.
•    Avoiding sharing glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, cigarettes, and makeup.

Spokane County’s last confirmed mumps case was in 2009. Counting Spokane’s cases, since Jan. 1, 2016, state health officials confirmed six cases of mumps in Washington state—the three in Spokane County and three cases unrelated to Spokane’s outside Spokane County. In 2015, Washington confirmed seven cases of mumps statewide.

Nationally, the CDC has reported 1897 mumps cases from 44 states through Sep. 10.