Number of mumps cases rises to 78 in King County

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KENT, Wash. – The cases of mumps continues to rise in King, with the total number rising to 78 suspected and confirmed cases.

Doctors say it’s still not clear why the outbreak is happening now, but according to Dr. Danielle Zerr, those most at risk are those who haven’t been vaccinated, including infants and children under four.

Raising their two children, Danny and Corina Choi already have plenty to worry about.

“One is three and attends school, and my youngest son is 15 months old now,” said Corina Choi.

So hearing that mumps is spreading in King County, first in Auburn and now in Kent, where they live, is just another concern on their plate.

“With children, they just don’t know proper hand sanitization and when they cough, they don’t know how to properly cover their mouths,” said Choi.

To make matters worse, doctors say those most at risk for contracting mumps are those who haven’t been vaccinated, including children too young to have received both doses of the MMR vaccine.

Kids usually get the first dose after their first birthday, but don't get the second dose until they turn four. Both of Choi’s children have only gotten the first dose of the vaccine due to their age.

“The infection usually starts off with what we call non-specific symptoms and signs, like low-grade fever and muscle aches, feeling ill and loss of appetite… and in about 50 percent of patients… they’ll get swelling of their salivary glands which is the hallmark of mumps,” said Dr. Zerr.

Zerr admits the vaccine isn’t perfect. As county health officials say more than two thirds of the cases so far have happened in kids who did get the vaccination. But the good news, Zerr says, is that the symptoms probably won't be quite as bad for those people.

“When you think about numbers like 60 percent of those become infected were vaccinated, you have to think about all the people that were exposed and vaccinated and were not infected,” said Zerr.

So the Chois can only hope others have done their part.

“I think this is a prime example of why vaccinations are important,” said Corina Choi of the mumps and for children who are out there and even more susceptible to this, it’s not just about their children anymore, it’s mine as well.”

In serious cases, mumps can cause infection of the central nervous system. For older boys, we’re told it can cause inflammation in the testicles and affect sperm count.