Parents warned about possible mumps case at Ferndale High School

Ferndale High School
Ferndale High School eabell@bellinghamherald.com

One person at Ferndale High School could have the mumps, and public health officials are working to identify students and staff who may have been exposed to the ill person.

The Whatcom County Health Department is monitoring the situation. A lab test hasn’t confirmed whether the illness is the mumps, public health officials said Friday.

Parents were notified by the Ferndale School District and the health department Thursday.

Officials haven’t said whether the ill person was a student or an employee at the high school.

Washington state is experiencing a mumps outbreak, with 301 confirmed or probable cases since Oct. 30. The last time the state saw this number of mumps cases was in 1977, according to state health officials.

As a result, county health officials are taking additional precautions, including asking people who may have signs of the illness to stay home for five days after symptoms start.

Mumps symptoms include fever, headache and swelling of the cheeks and jaw.

The virus spreads easily through coughing, sneezing, talking, and sharing cups or eating utensils.

This possible illness in Ferndale doesn’t seem to be linked to the mumps outbreak elsewhere in Washington state, according to the county health department.

King, Pierce and Spokane counties have been hit hardest during the outbreak.

“Our outbreak has largely been connected to schools and people in contact with schools and schoolchildren. Most cases of mumps in Washington since this outbreak began have been in school-age children,” said David Johnson, a spokesman with the Washington State Department of Health.

The MMR vaccine is the first line of defense against its spread, health officials said.

But it’s not perfect, so people are being asked to watch for symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated.

Learn more online at doh.wa.gov.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea