Mumps Misfortune

Gianna Mumford, Staff Writer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the mumps outbreak in Washington. Health officials in North Idaho have been bracing for it to hit us for a few weeks now, but what is the likelihood of it actually reaching us, and what exactly is mumps?

Mumps, also known as epidemic parotitis, is a viral infection spread by sneezing, coughing, or coming into contact with saliva from an infected person by things like kissing, sharing drinks, and lipstick. When someone gets infected with mumps their parotid glands become very swollen.


Adults are more at risk for mumps than children. It is preventable by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and only lasts about seven to ten days. Symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, coughing, and loss of appetite. It’s rarely deadly, but it is recommended that you do whatever possible to avoid being infected. It’s just as contagious as the flu. Mumps can cause hearing loss, meningitis, and brain damage, which is where it gets deadly.

You can use common sense like washing your hands and covering your mouth when coughing to be protected.

The Washington State Department of Health says the current total amount of confirmed and probable cases of mumps in Washington is 503, with Spokane County having the most at 216. If you or someone you know doesn’t have insurance and aren’t sure if you’ve had the MMR vaccine, you can call the Family Health Hotline. The MMR vaccine is your best bet against mumps. One dose is about 49 to 92 percent effective and the recommended two doses is about 66 to 95 percent effective.

Kim Papich, Spokane Regional Health District’s public information officer, said to the Coeur d’Alene Press on January 18th, “There are one or two cases of mumps in idaho, but that’s normal, and they’re unlikely to be related to the Spokane outbreak.”

So to answer the original question, it does seem very likely that a mumps outbreak could get spread to Idaho, but for now we’re safe. Just remember to use common sense, check your vaccinations, and look for weekly updates on the news or the Washington State Department of Health website.