Monroe schools report mumps cases

One confirmed at Park Place; Frank Wagner has one probable case

Kelly Sullivan

The Monroe School District is now also feeling the affects of a report of more than 600 potential mumps cases statewide.

Park Place Middle School has one confirmed and another probable case, and Frank Wagner Elementary School has one probable case. Students who can’t show proof of immunization at schools with one or more confirmed cases — meaning contraction was proven through a blood test — or two or more probable cases will be excluded from school for nearly four weeks.

Washington State Department of Health spokesperson David Johnson said Washington hasn't “seen a spike like this since around the mid-1970s.” He said the most recent annual case numbers have hovered well below 100 statewide. There were 53 cases in 2007, and the number of cases dropped into in the single digits by 2009, staying low until 2015, he said.

As of Wednesday, March 22, there were 664 confirmed and probable cases statewide, according to the department of health. Symptoms are not usually severe but in some cases can lead to hearing loss and meningitis — the swelling of the brain or spinal cord. There is no specific treatment for mumps.

Snohomish County Health District staff has monitored the outbreak in Washington since the first cases were confirmed last fall, said public and government affairs manager Heather Thomas. There are 33 confirmed and probable cases in Snohomish County. One case is not linked to the outbreak because the person contracted the disease while they were out of the country, she said

Nearly two-thirds of the county's cases are reported in students. The first cases in local schools were confirmed in Everett, Thomas said, followed by Stanwood. Students are more susceptible because they are in close proximity to one another for long periods during the day, she said.

Initially, 20 students were excluded from attending class at Park Place Middle, states school district marketing liaison Erin Zacharda in an email.

“Four of those students have either gotten their vaccinations or blood tests to prove immunity and have been allowed to return to school, so now only 16 students are excluded,” she wrote. “Personal phone calls by staff were made to each family that needed to be excluded and certified letters were sent as well.”

Because there has been only one probable case at Wagner Elementary, the 20 unvaccinated students at that school have not been excluded yet, according to Zacharda. If more cases are reported, staff will notify parents.

Zacharda wrote nursing staff are “pulling data from student records to determine how many students would need to be excluded should any cases of mumps arise at their schools.” According to the health department, 85.2 percent of Snohomish County's 8,020 students met all immunization requirements for their age during the 2015-16 school year.

It is under the authority of the Snohomish County Health District health officer and director Dr. Gary Goldbaum to exclude students from school, Thomas said. That includes students who are only partially vaccinated, she said.

Goldbaum sent a letter out to the county's school districts in December warning administrators that students at schools impacted by the virus will be asked to stay home if they can't provide proof of immunity “by age, disease history, antibody testing, or vaccination documentation.” Those who are unable to do so must wait 26 days after the parotid gland — salivary glands in the cheeks — becomes swollen in the most recent case they were potentially exposed to.

The best way to prevent an outbreak from occurring in general, or even again next year, is for people to get fully vaccinated, said health department spokesperson David Johnson.

The MMR or measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is administered in two doses, according to the department of health. Roughly 88 percent of those who are fully vaccinated are protected from contracting the disease. Those who are vaccinated and do get sick usually have fewer, or less severe symptoms.

Standard symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and aches, or there may be no symptoms at all. Swollen glands near the mouth, and in the testicles of boys who have already hit puberty, are also common.

Adults born before 1957 have already been exposed to the virus, and are likely immune, Johnson said. At this point it is unclear why Washington has had so many cases this year, he said.

“Our best explanation is that it is cyclic sometimes, but mumps is one of those diseases that affects folks in close contact,” Johnson said.

He said the best way to prevent spreading mumps once someone becomes ill is to stay home from work or school, avoid public places and call before heading to a physician’s office. It is possible to contract the disease in a waiting room. 

Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Students who can't provide an immunity to mumps are not being able to return to school until they can.


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