Four probable mumps cases investigated in Pierce County

A pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif.
A pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. AP file, 2015

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is investigating four probable cases of mumps in Pierce County. All of the individuals had been vaccinated, according to the department.

The cases are associated with an outbreak in south King County, according to a health department news release. The Seattle and King County health department says 54 people have confirmed or suspected mumps cases.

Pierce County’s four cases involve two boys under the age of 10 in the Auburn School District, a woman between the ages of 20 and 30, and a woman between the ages of 40 and 50, said Edie Jeffers, spokeswoman for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Jeffers said the health department sent a note to school nurses in Pierce County about the outbreak.

“If any school has a mumps outbreak, we would recommend exclusion from school attendance for students and adults who are not immunized,” Jeffers said.

The Auburn School District is requiring proof of immunization against the illness before allowing students back on campus, said district spokeswoman Vicki Alonzo. Eleven of the district’s 22 schools have students with mumps, she said, but the exclusion applies to students at every school.

Of King County’s 54 suspected or confirmed mumps cases, 38 are 17 years old or younger, and two-thirds of all cases have up-to-date vaccinations. All but one school-aged child attends class in the Auburn School District. The remaining child attends school in the Kent School District, according to Public Health - Seattle and King County.

The vast majority — 48 cases — involve Auburn residents, that county’s health department reported.

Jeffers said even vaccinated people can catch mumps, and immunity can wane over time.

There is a vaccine for mumps — the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. It is about 88 percent effective in protecting people from mumps, said Julie Graham, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health in a news release. According to health officials, two doses of the vaccine are recommended, one at age 12 months and then again between the ages of 4 to 6.

For those who have never had the immunizations, they can get two doses separated by a minimum of 28 days.

“People who have the immunization, they are basically going to have a less severe illness,” Jeffers said. “There is a lesser chance that an immunized person would get it.”

The more people who are vaccinated, the more it protects society as a whole — including those too ill to receive the vaccine themselves, Jeffers said.

“We are always going to recommend vaccination,” she said.

Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness, the health department said, which can be spread through face-to-face contact, coughing, sneezing or spraying saliva while talking. The illness can last a week to 10 days.

Mumps can cause puffy cheeks or a swollen jaw. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Meningitis and encephalitis are rare complications of mumps. Those who suspect they have mumps should call their primary care provider, Jeffers said.

People can transmit mumps one to two days before they have its signature symptoms of a swollen jaw or cheeks, she said. The number of mumps cases are likely to rise in the coming days and weeks.

Learn more about mumps on the health department website: tpchd.org/mumps.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports