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Mumps Cases Swell in Washington State, CDC Urges Parents to Vaccinate Kids

The latest outbreak of this scary illness has doctors stressing the importance of vaccines more than ever.

mother feeling son's neck for mumps Getty Images
A new report is raising concerns that the viral illness mumps could be on the rise again.

Mumps is rare now that there's a highly-effective vaccine available for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), administered to children between ages 1 and 4. But according to CNN, 278 cases of mumps have been reported in Washington state since October. Another outbreak was reported in Arkansas, while Iowa, Oklahoma, New York, and Illinois also reported more than 300 cases in 2016, according to the CDC.

To prevent the spread of the virus, which is passed person to person by saliva and mucus, Dave Johnson, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, emphasizes, "The best protection against mumps is the MMR vaccine." He adds, "We are telling folks if you're sick or you think you have mumps, stay home."

Mumps symptoms include fever, headache, chills, loss of appetite, and swollen salivary glands (thus that typical image of children having a swollen jaw and cheeks), but it is far from just your run-of-the-mill illness, and can have serious complications.

"This is not just a common cold," Dyan Hes, M.D., Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City told Parents.com. "The swelling of the glands in the face is extremely painful." It can also have serious consequences: The viral infection "can cause orchitis in boys (infection of the testicles), leaving them infertile [and] can also cause many complications in immunocompromised children. It can also cause encephalitis, meningitis, and deafness."

Consider, too, that mumps does not respond to antibiotics. And although the MMR vaccine is about 88 percent effective, even people who are immunized can still be put at risk. According to CNN, most of the individual state outbreaks occurred among vaccinated people. Currently, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is considering whether a third dose of the MMR vaccine is necessary.

If you have any questions about vaccinating your child, talk to your pediatrician.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.