Worst mumps outbreak since the ‘70s? Low vaccine rates could be culprit | KUOW News and Information

Worst mumps outbreak since the ‘70s? Low vaccine rates could be culprit

Mar 30, 2017

Washington state is in the midst of a mumps outbreak. There have been nearly 700 cases reported since October.

The last time the state saw numbers like this was the mid '70s. Flares were in style and America was still ensconced in the Cold War.

David Johnson of the state Department of Health said officials aren't sure why there's such a spike in cases after so many years.

"The increase may simply be cyclical. But it's really clear to us — and we want to make sure it's clear to everybody — that the mumps vaccine is the best line of defense right now to be able to beat this mumps disease."

Johnson said the vaccine is about 88 percent effective.

He said mumps tends to spread best where people spend a lot of time in close quarters.

"College campuses, schools, clubs, and even most recently there was a mumps outbreak that was puzzling the NHL. And that makes sense because most of the players are together all the time, they're in locker rooms, they travel together so they're in close confines. Those are perfect environments for mumps to spread."

He said people should take the disease seriously, and if you think you might be sick stay home and call your health care provider.

"Some of the mild symptoms can be headaches, swelling, fever, just not feeling well. And what you want to make sure is that you see a health care provider immediately so you can stop it before it grabs hold and gets worse, because mumps could be life threatening if you allow it to continue."

Johnson said there have been no deaths or serious cases reported in this outbreak.

Spokane and King counties have been the worst hit, with 283 and 240 cases respectively.

There were more than 5,000 mumps cases reported nationwide in 2016; that's the highest number of cases since 2006.