Gilbert mumps case forces unvaccinated students to stay home

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GILBERT, Ariz. -- More than a dozen students were told to stay home after a confirmed case of mumps was reported at a Gilbert school.

A fourth-grader at Higley Elementary School was diagnosed with the highly contagious disease and the district isn't taking any chances. Parents were told about the case as soon as possible.

Nineteen students who were not immunized for mumps are staying home from school for 26 days to make sure they don't get sick.

Those students can return on Feb. 28 if there are no additional reported mumps cases in the school.

"I am very concerned, I mean my children are vaccinated but it is a great concern because it does spread the disease to other children," said parent Stacey Adair.

Most children are vaccinated against the disease, but parents are allowed to opt out under state law. However, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said it's not a good idea.

"We're excluding them so that they don't become that pocket of people who can be infected and get a bigger outbreak going and continue the spread even to people who were immunized," said Dr. Bob England, health department director.

All the students will have to keep up with their studies during their time away from school.

The disease is caused by a virus that is spread through the air by coughing or contact with infected fluids from the mouth, nose or throat.  

Signs/symptoms of mumps:

- Swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands, usually the parotid gland located in front of and below the ears by the curve of the jaw.

- A couple days prior to glandular swelling, a low-grade fever may be present and you may experience muscle aches, lack of appetite, headache and/or earache.

- Occasionally, testicular inflammation and tenderness will occur in males and ovarian inflammation and tenderness will occur in females.

In some cases, mumps will cause meningitis (stiff neck and headache), which typically resolves without problems, and rarely, mumps will cause swelling of the brain.