Lakewood schools report confirmed mumps case at high school

LAKEWOOD – The mumps outbreak in Snohomish County has touched north county after a confirmed case at Lakewood High School.

The number of cases stands at 47, with 19 confirmed and 28 probable as of April 12 countywide. Of those 33 cases are impacting schools within Everett, Monroe, Mukilteo Stanwood-Camano and now Lakewood.

To compare, Snohomish County recorded three mumps cases from 2013-16.

Lakewood posted a communicable disease surveillance and response letter to parents dated April 6 to the district website from the Snohomish Health District, with vaccination and prevention information. School officials also updated that “the student is doing well and will remain out of school until no longer contagious.”

The letter notified parents that their child may have been exposed to mumps, and emphasized that vaccination is the most-effective way to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease.The letter instructed parents that if their child develops symptoms, take the letter to their family health care provider and ask to arrange an exam in an isolation room.

Although most students in the school district have been vaccinated against mumps, some students and staff have not, wrote Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the health district. These students and staff are at high risk to contract and spread mumps, placing others at risk, especially those who cannot be vaccinated (such as infants or people undergoing certain cancer treatments).

To prevent the spread of mumps, students who have not been vaccinated need to be excluded from school until they have been vaccinated, or until the 26th day following the onset of parotitis (swelling of the parotid salivary glands) of the last case of mumps in a school. The date to return is April 24.

“Lakewood has been great to work with; they’ve been very proactive,” said Heather Thomas, public and government affairs manager with the health district.

Dale Leach, director of Learning Support and facilities supervisor, said the district had a plan in place and worked diligently to share that information with families, students and employees. The district sent out a first letter to students and staff in January after the first cases of mumps in Washington started to appear.

When school officials learned of a probable mumps case at the high school prior to spring break, which then became confirmed, the school district contacted staff and families. District staff used email and the school messenger system to make sure all parties were notified.

Leach said the transportation department was notified of bused students not vaccinated who could not be permitted back to school yet.Immunization information was also collected from school staff, and those who weren’t immunized were able to get the shot, some on-site.

With the growing statewide mumps outbreak, health officials are urging people to get vaccinated. Statewide, 738 confirmed and probable cases have been reported as of April 5, about two-thirds in the Seattle and Spokane areas.

Health Department spokesman David Johnson said the state hasn’t seen a spike like this since around the mid-1970s.

Nearly two-thirds of Snohomish County’s cases are in students. Students are more susceptible because they are in close proximity to one another for long periods during the day.

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which typically requires more than one dose, is the best protection against mumps, Thomas said.

An infected person can spread the virus through coughing or sneezing, and by hand contact. Mumps can also spread when people share cups and eating utensils. Mumps cause puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, the result of swollen salivary glands. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite.

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