Nine mumps cases have been reported in LA County so far this year, which health experts say is an unusually high number since the childhood disease is easily prevented through vaccination. But the percentage of American children given that vaccine has decreased because some people are afraid the vaccine isn't safe, despite recent studies providing evidence to the contrary.
According to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, LA County's director of public health, the outbreak may be related to a multi-state outbreak affecting the Hasidic Jewish population on the East Coast, where clusters of mumps are being observed in community centers, schools and colleges.
Mumps is a preventable viral illness transmitted by coughing and sneezing. The first symptoms show up 12 to 25 days after exposure, and include swelling of the salivary glands, fever, and inflammation of the male sexual organs. Up to 20 percent of people infected by mumps don't show any symptoms at all, but in severe cases, it can lead to meningitis or encephalitis.
Unimmunized children and teens under age 19 can get free or low-cost shots from the county's public health centers or through local community clinics. You can get more information at theLA County Department of Public Health web site or by calling 211.