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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two mumps cases confirmed at Eastern Washington University in Cheney

This May 15, 2019 file photo shows a vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at a clinic in Vashon Island, Wash. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

Two Eastern Washington University students have confirmed cases of the mumps, school officials said Thursday.

Students, faculty and staff at the school in Cheney were notified of the cases via email Thursday afternoon, said Dave Meany, director of communications and media relations for EWU. The two students affected live off campus, Meany said.

Operations at EWU are proceeding as scheduled, according to the university, which operates on a quarter system. Spring classes are scheduled to end in mid-June.

School officials are urging students, faculty and staff to be mindful of mumps symptoms. The virus is spread through saliva, and initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. Parotitis, the swelling of the salivary gland that causes the puffiness giving the disease its name, can show up two days after a person has already become infectious.

That can be problematic in stopping the spread of the disease, said Susan Sjoberg, program manager overseeing communicable disease prevention at the health district.

“Swapping spit is just one of those things that happens,” she said.

The university is also encouraging those on campus to update their vaccinations, which significantly cuts down susceptibility to the virus but doesn’t eliminate the potential for being infected. Sjoberg said up to 13% of those vaccinated against mumps can still contract the virus, from which it can take up to two weeks to recover. Those who believe they’ve contracted mumps should contact their health care provider before seeking care, so staff can take steps to prevent the spread of the disease.

The two EWU cases identified Thursday are the first reported cases of the mumps in Spokane County this year, after a single case was reported in April 2018. Sjoberg said that a decline in vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) led to a large outbreak in 2017, and health district staff anticipate a couple of cases a year based on that reduction.

“We know across the country we’re kind of at a resurgence level,” she said.

The Washington Department of Health has reported 81 cases of the measles statewide so far in 2019, the majority of which were confined to Clark County during a six-week period that ended in April. The outbreak sparked a push in the state Legislature to cut down on the allowable exemptions for vaccination before children could attend public schools and day cares.