WAKE COUNTY (WTVD) --The North Carolina Division of Public Health is encouraging residents to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines after six cases of mumps were identified in the state this past month.
The cases were reported in Wake, Orange, and Watauga counties in April. College and elementary school students were among the infected, according to officials.
Earlier this week, ABC11 reported that a UNC student was being tested for a probable case of the mumps after the university confirmed the report Monday. That case has since come back negative.
RELATED: UNC-Chapel Hill student undergoing testing for mumps
Mumps is a viral illness best known for causing swelling of the salivary glands below the ears and above the jaw, called parotitis.
"I did think that we were totally protected," said Romenna Jones, an Apex mom of a 10-year-old. "So you are surprised to find out that someone who may have had the vaccine or had the vaccine may have mumps? Yes."
Jones said she wasn't overly concerned because her children have had "vaccines and we homeschool."
The most common symptoms include fever, muscle aches, unusual tiredness, loss of appetite, headache, and swollen, tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides.
Mumps is spread through direct contact (coughing and sneezing) and saliva from an infected person.
"We do see evidence that the virus is still in circulation," said Dr. Jean-Marie Maillard, an epidemiologist with the North Carolina Division of Public Health. "Occasionally when it hits a close community there can be transmission, sometimes a high level of transmission."
To prevent the spread of the virus, officials say wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and sneezes, avoid close contact with ill individuals, and do not share beverages, eating utensils or cigarettes.
Amy Peterson, a Cary mom, said "Vaccinating children, especially if they're in school is very important to help prevent the spread of these types of diseases."
A person with confirmed or suspected mumps should stay home from work or school and limit close contact with others for five days after the salivary glands swell, or until mumps is ruled out.
"The most effective way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated," said Dr. Zack Moore, North Carolina State Epidemiologist. "Anyone who thinks they might have mumps should contact their physician and have appropriate laboratory testing."
While it is still possible for people who have been vaccinated to get mumps, risk is much higher in those who are not vaccinated, according to officials. The risk for complications from mumps is also lower in people who are vaccinated compared to those who are not.
"The vaccine's not perfect, overall 88 percent effective," Maillard said. "And so there is room for some cases to happen."
Peterson agreed with that assessment and added that common sense goes a long way.
"Sometimes they're not 100 percent effective," Peterson said of vaccines. "So you just have to use common sense, and if your children are around anybody that is sneezing, coughing, any fever, anything like that, you know handwashing is good prevention."
More information about mumps, visit North Carolina Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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