A student at Northwood Elementary School in the Puyallup School District has the mumps and will remain out of school until she is no longer contagious, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said Friday.
The school district, in consultation with the Health Department, decided to also exclude students who are “unvaccinated or under vaccinated” against the disease from Northwood, according to the department.
That could affect 13 of the school’s 386 students. The 13 have received either a single dose or no doses of the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine. Those students will be allowed back in school as soon as they receive the required doses of the vaccine.
A Health Department statement said school officials learned of the girl’s illness Thursday and contacted the department, which later confirmed the girl had the mumps.
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Mumps, once a common childhood disease before vaccinations could prevent it, is a highly contagious viral illness easily spread in school settings where students are in close contact. It’s best known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw — the result of swollen salivary glands.
The disease can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Complications can include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). It also can result in deafness. Inflammation can occur in the testicles in males who have reached puberty, or in the ovaries or breast tissue of females.
Officials have been working with schools throughout Pierce County to let them know about the possibility of an increase in cases of the mumps, said Nigel Turner, communicable disease division director at the Health Department.
Mumps can spread through face-to-face contact, especially through coughing, sneezing or spraying saliva while talking. It also can spread when people share cups or eating utensils.
Those most likely to get the disease include babies under 1 year old, older unvaccinated children, adults born in or after 1957 who have not been vaccinated or have not had mumps.
Doctors and other health care providers are required to report cases of mumps to the local health department.
Recent mumps cases in the region started with an outbreak in South King County. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department identified the first Pierce County probable mumps cases Dec. 9.
As of Friday, the department was investigating five probable and 10 confirmed cases.
All about mumps
Mumps is best known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Up to 10 percent of teenage boys and men can experience swelling of the testicles.
Immunization is the most effective way to prevent mumps. Children need two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to attend school.
Other protections: Avoid contact with infected people, wash hands with soap and water, avoid sharing eating utensils or cups.
Source: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department