At Least 80 Sick in Massive Mumps Outbreak in Spokane, Washington

Many of those infected are school-age children.

The outbreak began at the end of last year, when two people were reportedly infected with the disease. Of the 80 infections reported, 50 were among people who had been vaccinated for mumps, five in unvaccinated people and 25 in people whose vaccination status was not clear, the Spokane Regional Health District reported yesterday. Most of those affected are under the age of 20, according to Papich.

The health department said it expects to see more cases in the outbreak. Epidemiologists are talking to patients to see how they may have been exposed, according to Kim Papich, a spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health Department.

Approximately 300 students without up-to-date vaccination documents have been told to stay home in the hopes of protecting them from the virus, Papich said.

"Mumps outbreaks can occur any time of year. A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps," the Spokane Regional Health District said on Facebook on Monday. "Also, certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus."

Health officials say the vaccination has been very effective, especially for those who have completed the recommended cycle.

"There's a lot of myths circulating about how mumps are spread and the efficacy of the vaccine," Papich said. "The MMR vaccine is 88 percent effective. If it wasn't doing its job, we'd see a lot more cases."