Hundreds of cases of mumps have been reported across the country since the start of 2017, according to the Centers for Disease and Control.
As of March 4, the CDC had received reports of 1,242 cases of mumps, a contagious viral infection which can result in swollen salivary glands and flu-like symptoms. In Washington state, Seattle and King County Heath officials said a dozen University of Washington students, all connected to sororities or fraternities, have contracted the illness, KING-TV reported. This year, there have been 563 reported cases of mumps and probable mumps statewide, an increase from last year when only 154 cases were reported in the state, according to the Washington State Health Department.
In Tulsa, Okla., officials are investigating five confirmed cases of mumps in the area, KFOR-TV reported.And in Illinois, Lake County Health Department announced its partnering with Barrington School District 220 to hold a vaccination clinic, after four cases of confirmed mumps were reported and 35 probable cases identified in the area.
While cases of the mumps fluctuate each year from a couple hundred to a few thousand, the high number of cases so early into 2017 has some health officials concerned.
"We always get concerned anytime that we have any type of outbreak, especially with a vaccine-preventable illness like mumps," said Camille Sabella, Director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
Typically children are given two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella), which is the best protection against Mumps. Sabella said the virus is typically spread quickly among students, particularly high school or college students who are in tight-quarters and may spread the virus through saliva, or coughing. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, two dosages typically gives enough protection to prevent mumps, Sabella said, adding it's not too late for those who only received one dosage, or were not vaccinated at all to get the vaccine.
Many of the 2017 cases are from outbreaks continuing from 2016, when 5,311 cases were reported to CDC, marking the highest number of mumps cases in a decade, Ian Branam, a spokesman for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in an email.
"Because outbreaks of mumps are unpredictable, we don’t know if this level in mumps cases will continue for the remainder of 2017," he said.
He said officials are currently investigating factors that may have contributed to the 2016 outbreak, including whether the vaccine's effectiveness decreases over time.
"The most important thing is to be sure your child has two dosages of MMR and ... common sense things, washing your hands well and trying to stay away from individuals who may be obviously ill, not sharing drinks, cups," he said. "Beyond that its really difficult to prevent this because again people are in close settings like a classroom and it's very contagious."