An Atlanta high school is on high alert after one student contracted mumps.
A letter was sent to Grady High School parents on Oct. 18 informing them their students may have been exposed to the disease, caused by the contagious virus of the same name, which spreads through direct contact through saliva. Only one case was confirmed at the time the letter was sent.
Dr. Betsy Bockman, the school’s principal, asked that parents keep an eye out for symptoms and encourage their children to avoid sharing cups and utensils. Kissing can also spread the viral illness, according to health officials.
Most people typically develop symptoms 16 to 18 days after they are infected, she said in the letter, but it could take as long as 25 days to have any symptoms.
Symptoms include swollen or tender salivary glands, fever, tiredness, headache, sore throat or muscle aches.
In recent years, multiple mumps outbreaks have been reported across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
As of Oct.6, there have been 1,885 mumps infections reported to the CDC nationwide. Less than 20 cases have been reported in Georgia this year.
Last year, there were more than 6,000 cases reported in the United States — the highest number in 10 years.
The CDC recommends everyone 15 months and older get two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Those vaccinated against the viruses have a greatly diminished chance of contracting them.
Since the pre-vaccine era, there’s been a more than 99 percent decrease in mumps cases, and in 2010, the total annual cases were down in the hundreds, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution previously reported.
However, in the last few years, the number of mumps cases has been on the rise. The CDC has noted an increase in the number of reported cases, from 229 cases in 2012 to 6,336 cases in 2016.
Grady High School is encouraging parents to speak with their doctors about vaccinating their children if they do not have two doses of the MMR vaccine. They are also asking parents to alert the school’s nurse right away if a child becomes symptomatic.
Sophie Peeler, a student at Grady, told Channel 2 Action News that many of her classmates have not been worried about infection.
"People were just kind of joking about it saying, 'Don’t share your water bottles and stuff,’” she said. “But it really hasn’t been that big of a deal around the school.”
Others were concerned because the student diagnosed with mumps was not named, Channel 2 reported. They did not know if they had come in contact with that person or not.
Health officials have not released the student’s name for privacy reasons, according to the news station.