Health officials are working to control a mumps outbreak among school children in New Castle County, Del., according to the state’s Division of Public Health, or DPH.
DPH said it’s investigating the outbreak after identifying seven confirmed cases of the acute viral infection, and two additional “probable” cases.
Dr. Rick Hong, DPH’s medical director, said the state has not yet been able to identify the cause of the outbreak. While there has been an anti-vaccination movement in the U.S, he said it’s difficult to say if it correlates with the outbreak.
Mumps is not a common outbreak in the state. However, there has been an increase in mumps outbreaks in the U.S. since late 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s not a typical situation, however in Delaware in 2018 there were 20 cases linked to a multicultural dance,” Hong said. “It doesn’t happen all the time but we do see episodes every once in a while.”
The confirmed cases involve students at William Penn High School, George Read Middle School, and St. Georges Technical High School. Students and families have been notified of the positive cases.
DPH is in contact with those schools and school districts to offer guidance on how to contain the illness, which an infected person can spread by coughing, sharing items, or touching surfaces with unwashed hands.
“They are at home as recommended,” Hong said of the students who tested positive for mumps. “The schools are being very flexible to continue their education. We don’t want this episode to impact their learning experience.”
DPH urges the community to wash their hands. Parents are advised to review their children’s immunization records.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is recommended between 12 and 15 months of age, with a second dose between ages 4 and 6. Teens and adults who were not vaccinated as children are encouraged to do so.
The MMR vaccine of two doses is 88% percent effective at reducing the risk of getting the mumps.
The symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, body aches, loss of appetite and swelling of parotid salivary glands, which can develop between 12 and 25 days after exposure.
DPH advises anyone with symptoms of the mumps to remain at home and consult in their physician. Parents of students who may have been exposed to mumps also should contact their healthcare providers.