SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah school districts are on alert after confirmed or possible cases of mumps in their communities.
At North Sanpete High School, one student has picked up the infection, officials said. Non-immunized students there are required to stay home from school until May 5, when the outbreak will be considered over.
"What we want parents to understand is we're just trying to protect all of our students and we're trying to follow state law. We've also been very transparent with the parents as far as the information we can share," said North Sanpete School District Superintendent Sam Ray.
Two people, including the student, have confirmed cases of mumps in Sanpete County, according to a statement from Central Utah Public Health Department. Health officials are also investigating "other probable cases" among those who have had close contact with the two affected people.
Ray said that at least 20 percent of students at the school either didn't have their immunizations or didn't give their immunization records to school officials. Some of those students have already had mumps and don't need the immunization, he said.
Some students have waivers, meaning their parents have claimed exemptions from immunization.
Students have the choice to get their immunizations current — or at least get their first MMR shot, the vaccination against against measles, mumps and rubella — or stay away from the school until the outbreak ends, Ray said.
The school district has notified parents and employees district-wide about the outbreak, Ray said, adding that employees have been informed what they can do to protect themselves.
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake County Health Department was investigating a possible case of mumps at Draper Elementary School last Thursday. According to Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney, a custodial crew "immediately" disinfected the school's common areas, including classrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hallways. Buses were "thoroughly cleaned" as well, Haney said.
As of Tuesday, the school district had not received updates on whether the case has been confirmed, Haney said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen at least 426 mumps cases so far this year. At least three cases were confirmed in Utah.
Numbers of mumps cases started increasing in the country in late 2015, the CDC says.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and loss of appetite. Most people with the illness recover after two weeks. It is spread by close contact with someone who has the infection or by sharing items that may have saliva on them. In rare cases, it can cause more serious complications, according to the CDC.10 comments on this story
Mumps cases decreased by more than 99 percent after the two-MMR dose vaccination program was introduced in 1989. But since 2006, "there have been several increases in cases and outbreaks about every five years," the CDC says.
According to an article in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, vaccination rates have continued to drop since a controversial 1998 study by doctor Andrew Wakefield that suggested a connection between the vaccine and autism in young children. Several studies later disproved that connection.
Contributing: Jacob Klopfenstein