No new mump cases in Monroe School District

Washington sees highest numbers since the 1970s

Kelly Sullivan

No new mumps cases have been reported in the Monroe School District since the most recent exclusionary period began.

All students were back in their seats at Frank Wagner Elementary by Wednesday, May 17, where two confirmed and two probable cases had been recorded since March. One confirmed case and one probable case were also reported at Park Place Middle School.

Initially, 20 parents each of students at Park Place and Frank Wagner were told their children were missing proof of immunity. Many were later able to offer the proper documentation.

School district spokesperson Tamara Krache said nine students were asked to stay home from Park Place during an exclusionary period that lasted from March 16 to April 3. Only nine were ultimately excluded from Frank Wagner between March 27 and April 17, and May 2-17, she said.

All received excused absences, and school staff helped the students keep up.

“Teachers provided homework for students to complete during the exclusion period, so they didn’t fall behind,” Krache said.

The required recess lasts 26 days. The period starts once salivary glands in the cheeks, or parotid gland, become swollen. Some of the most notable symptoms of mumps are enlarged glands near the mouth and in the testicles of boys who have already hit puberty.

Other common signs include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and aches. Some people may not have any symptoms. Most cases are not severe. Hearing loss and meningitis — the swelling of the brain or spinal cord – are occasionally reported.

The exclusionary periods are determined by Snohomish County Health District staff, Krache said. The agency sends the school district calculated dates and guidelines, “and we hand out their letters,” she said.

The number of mumps cases has also spiked in Snohomish County and around the state since fall. There have been 836 confirmed and probable cases statewide. The majority of those cases in the county have come up in classrooms.

As May 18, 45 out of 67 confirmed and probable cases were related to schools, said Heather Thomas, Snohomish County Health District public and government affairs manager.

The Snohomish County Health District health director has the authority to exclude anyone attending a school with one or more confirmed cases or two or more probable cases and can’t show proof of immunity “by age, disease history, antibody testing, or vaccination.”

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is administered in two doses. About 88 percent of those who are fully vaccinated will not contract the disease. Those who are vaccinated and do get sick usually have fewer or less severe symptoms. Adults born before 1957 have already been exposed to the virus. The majority of people older than 60 are already immune.

“That’s not to say students who are vaccinated won’t get the mumps, but if you are not vaccinated, you are almost guaranteed to get the mumps,” Thomas said.

While the number of local cases has slowed down, the county is still feeling the effects of the statewide outbreak. Thomas said there was a recent lull in reported cases when students left for spring break, but another spike occurred when everyone returned.

“It tapered off a little, but we are still getting new cases every week,” Thomas said.

Many of the new cases were most likely caused because someone was exposed to the illness while traveling, Thomas said. That could have been in or out of the state. The increase is similar to what was seen after the holiday season this winter. The health district investigates and monitors each individual case, she said.

“It provides a few different things; it tells us whether they have been fully vaccinated, or if there are hot spots or age ranges where we see the most cases,” she said. “It helps us to see the bigger picture of what is happening.”

This year has seen the most cases reported in Washington by far since the 1970s. Most recently, annual case numbers have fallen well below 100 statewide. There were 53 cases in 2007. The number of cases dropped into in the single digits by 2009 — a trend that was maintained until 2015.

Washington State Department of Health spokesman David Johnson suggests this year’s outbreak may be part of a cycle. Staff at the department of health and the health district agree the illness is more easily spread when people are in close contact with each other. Thomas said this explains why students seem to be more susceptible.

Both agencies promote vaccination as the best way to prevent transmission. It is recommended to stay home from work, and avoid public places if sick with the mumps.


Photo by Kelly Sullivan: All students excluded from class because they were not able to show immunity to mumps had returned to their seats at Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe by Wednesday, May 17.


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