Mumps reported at La Jolla High School: School District says symptoms might be present through Nov. 15

Mumps is best known for the puffy cheeks and tender, swollen jaw that it causes. This is a result of swollen salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides, often referred to as parotitis.

A person on the La Jolla High School campus has tested positive for the highly contagious virus mumps. Students and those who frequent the campus may have been exposed Oct. 21-23, but symptoms may present as late as 25 days after exposure.

San Diego County Health & Human Services reports that three people at school campuses across the County have tested positive: one at La Jolla High, one at High Tech High in Point Loma and one at San Pasqual Academy in Escondido; bringing the total to 47 reports — the highest in 25 years.

According to a statement from the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), parents are advised to be on alert for symptoms their children may develop through Nov. 15.

Daniel Lichtmann, a Scripps La Jolla-affiliated pediatrician, explained that mumps is a vaccine-preventable viral illnesses, and most notably manifests as swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands in the face.

“People will come in with a lot of swelling in the jawline and the cheeks,” he told the Light. “A lot of times, the person will feel like they have a typical virus, with headaches and body aches for a few days, then the swelling can present. The average time for symptom presentation is two to three weeks after you are exposed, so we’re still in that range, but it shouldn’t be something where every child that develops a fever is feared to have mumps. They shouldn’t go to school if they have a fever, but until they start showing the swelling, it would be hard to tell whether they have mumps or some other virus.”

Most who test positive for mumps recover within seven to 10 days, without complications, Lichtmann aded.

However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults, which can include: inflammation of the testicles in males who have reached puberty, which may lead to a decrease in testicular size; inflammation of the ovaries and/or breast tissue; inflammation in the pancreas; inflammation of the brain; inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord; and deafness.

Students and those who gather in large groups in small spaces (such as classrooms or dorms) have a higher chance of exposure, and Lichtmann said it can cause infection in anyone who is susceptible. There is a vaccine for mumps given during infancy and childhood, but it is only considered 78 percent effective after one dose and 88 percent effective after two doses.

“You are at very low likelihood (of developing mumps) if you are fully vaccinated,” he said. “Because of the vaccine, mumps is not very common anymore. Before we started vaccinations, there were estimated 180,000 cases a year; that has been decreased by 99 percent.”

Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the county’s epidemiology and immunization services branch, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the person at La Jolla High School was fully vaccinated.

Lichtmann said: “People should certainly be aware of it and be on high alert for their child, if they were possibly exposed and know what to look for, but it shouldn’t cause widespread panic.”

According to SDUSD, receiving a vaccine now will not provide protection if your child was already exposed to mumps, but should provide protection if he/she is exposed in the future.

While the vaccine has generally caused the number of mumps cases observed nationwide to plummet since it was introduced in 1967, there has been a resurgence of cases in recent years. In 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports 2,701 cases, up slightly from the total of 2,044 reported coast to coast during the same span in 2018.

To date, County records show 47 mumps cases have been reported so far this year, the most in the past 25 years.

Want to know more? Call the County of San Diego Immunization Program at (866) 358-2966 or visit