3 Things You Should Know About the Recent Mumps Outbreak

Mumps is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads through direct contact with respiratory secretions.

Mumps is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads through direct contact with respiratory secretions. Symptoms generally include pain, tenderness, headache, fever, loss of appetite, tiredness, and salivary gland swelling. The salivary gland swelling causes the puffy cheeks and tender, swollen jaw. Serious complications of mumps are rare (< 1%) but may include pancreatitis, deafness, meningitis, and encephalitis.1 Check out these 3 facts about the recent Washington State mumps outbreak.

1. Mumps cases are on the rise in Washington State. As of January 25, 2017, there were 278 cases of mumps across 5 Washington State counties.2 Between October 2016 and January 6, 2017, a majority of the mumps cases were contracted by individuals with the age ranges of 10-13 years (26.3%) and 25-44 years (21.2%).3 The report does not include a breakdown of which individuals were previously immunized with the mumps vaccine. The Washington State Department of Health and the CDC are currently investigating the mumps outbreak and providing laboratory testing, disease examination, and resources for counties affected to prevent the spread.

2. Prevention strategies are important to prevent the spread of mumps. Individuals that are exposed to mumps and feel ill should stay home to prevent spreading the disease. Patients with mumps should avoid contact with others from the time of diagnosis until at least 5 days after the onset of salivary gland swelling.1 The risk of spreading the virus increases when individuals are in close quarters. Vaccination is the best way to prevent mumps. The mumps vaccine is part of the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines. The CDC recommends that children receive 2 doses of the MMR vaccine with the first dose administered at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.1 The MMRV vaccine is only approved for children 12 months through 12 years of age. Two doses of the mumps vaccine are about 88% effective at preventing the disease and 1 dose is about 78% effective.1

3. Mumps outbreaks have raised the question of a third MMR dose. Recent outbreaks that have occurred across the United States recently have raised the question of whether a third MMR dose should be considered to prevent the spread of mumps. A large outbreak of mumps occurred at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during April 2015-May 2016.4 Additionally, 89% of patients infected with mumps previously received at least 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.4 A third MMR dose was recommended at the university as a prevention strategy. Evidence suggests that waning of vaccine efficacy may occur over time, which may explain the recent outbreaks among vaccinated individuals. The CDC is currently examining the evidence and may recommend a third MMR dose in the future.


  • Mumps. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/hcp.html. Accessed January 26, 2017.
  • Mumps outbreak. Washington State Department of Health. http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Mumps/MumpsOutbreak. Accessed January 26, 2017.
  • Weekly mumps outbreak summary for Washington State. Washington State Department of Health website. http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/420-187WeeklyMumpsUpdate2016.pdf. Accessed January 26, 2017.
  • Albertson JP, Clegg WJ, Reid HD, et al. Mumps outbreak at a university and recommendation for a third dose of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine-Illinois, 2015-2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65:731-734. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6529a2.htm. Accessed January 26, 2017.

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