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Three Cases of Mumps Identified in Watauga County, Officials Encourage Vaccination

AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department) and Appalachian State University have confirmed three cases of mumps in Appalachian State University students who live off campus in Watauga County. 

All individuals diagnosed with the virus are being treated, and actions are in effect to minimize contact with the three individuals, per guidelines established by the State of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control, and they are fully cooperating in following isolation instructions.

Appalachian State University, AppHealthCare and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are working together to investigate these cases and prevent the spread of mumps.

AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene states that “officials from the university have been working in close coordination with state and county health officials, are sharing information, and taking swift and appropriate action in response to these diagnoses. All students have been pleasant, respectful and willing to isolate themselves from others in order to reduce the possibility of spreading the disease.”

Student Health Service medical director Dr. Taylor Rushing said, “We have been working with local health department staff to interview ill students about their activities during their periods of contagion and identify anyone they have come in close contact with. We have been reviewing immunization records with students who may have been exposed, offering immunizations if necessary, and ensuring they are aware of the signs and symptoms of mumps.”

AppHealthCare recommends area health care professionals implement an increased level of awareness of the possible need for mumps testing in patients who present with symptoms consistent with mumps. Individuals who suspect they may have mumps are encouraged to seek medical attention and isolate themselves.

The mumps virus is spread through close contact. The most effective prevention measure is the MMR vaccine, which is safe and effective in preventing the spread of mumps.

Important information about cause, symptoms and prevention is below:

What causes mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus.

How does mumps spread?

The mumps virus is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva or through sharing items like cups or utensils with an infected person. The risk of spreading the virus increases the longer and the closer the contact a person has with someone who has mumps. The average incubation period (from exposure to onset of illness) for mumps is 16 to 18 days, with a range of 12– 25 days. People with mumps are considered most infectious from two days before through five days after the onset of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Individuals with mumps usually first feel sick with nonspecific symptoms like headache, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever. The most well-known sign of mumps is parotitis, the swelling of the parotid salivary glands, below the ear. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease. There are no medicines to treat mumps, but most people recover completely in a few weeks.


Vaccination is the best way to prevent mumps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Two doses are required for all Appalachian State University students unless the student has claimed an exemption such as religious beliefs. Those who would like to receive the immunization, may request it from the AppHealthCare office located at 126 Poplar Grove Connector in Boone (Student Health Services for Appalachian State students). Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick, also helps.


Two doses of MMR vaccine are approximately 88% effective at preventing the disease; one dose is approximately 78% effective. The MMR vaccine is safe and effective. 

MMR vaccine should be administered to persons without evidence of immunity and everyone should be brought up to date with age appropriate vaccination (one or two doses). Although MMR vaccination has not been shown to be effective in preventing mumps in persons already infected, it will prevent infection in those persons who are not yet exposed or infected. Those born before or during 1957 are considered immune based on likely exposure during childhood.

It is important to recognize that mumps can occur in vaccinated people. During mumps outbreaks in highly vaccinated communities, the proportion of cases that occur among people who have been vaccinated may be high. This should not be interpreted as meaning that the vaccine is not effective; people who have not been vaccinated against mumps are much more likely to get mumps than those who have been fully vaccinated. Clinicians should ensure that all healthcare personnel in their offices have presumptive evidence of immunity.

If you are unsure of your current immunization records, check with your primary care provider to ensure you have the recommended vaccinations. Immunizations are available through primary care providers and AppHealthCare, Alleghany: (336) 372-5641, Ashe: (336) 246-9449 or Watauga: (828) 264-4995.

Appalachian State University students can access their immunization records at medportal.appstate.edu in three easy steps:

  1. Sign in using your university username and password.

  2. Select the “immunization” tab.

  3. Select “immunization history.”

This will allow students to view all immunizations they have submitted to Appalachian and all vaccinations administered by Appalachian’s immunization clinic. 

Additional information is available at: