Last Friday, Ms. Charles, the school nurse, told a student that he had contracted the mumps. Since then, Eagle River High School has seen two more cases, and other schools have had even more reports of the highly contagious viral infection. The mumps has been festering in Anchorage since late last year, with over 70 confirmed cases in the city and its surrounding areas. Though it is easily preventable by vaccination, cases of the mumps have been reported in every school in the district. The infection is spread by coughing and sneezing, as well as the sharing of food or drinks, and contact with contaminated surfaces.
Symptoms of the mumps are easily recognizable—including swollen cheeks and jaw, fever, and muscle aches—but they can take over two weeks to present themselves. A person who is infected can spread the disease before they even know they have it. That is why administrators are asking that everyone be cautious in the current situation. Ms. Charles advises the usual health policy: washing hands regularly, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home when sick. She also encourages getting healthy amounts of sleep, drinking water, and eating well to boost the immune system. Another recommendation, and possibly the most important one, is for students to check their vaccination status, and update their shots if needed.