Recognizing, Reporting, and Preventing Mumps at Children's Camps - Spring 2010

Spring 2010

Dear Children's Camp Operator:

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Bureau of Immunization would like to raise awareness about an ongoing mumps outbreak in the Northeast United States and how it affects children's camps. Since August 2009, a mumps outbreak that originated in Europe has been ongoing in New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This outbreak began at a New York summer camp for boys in summer 2009, when a child developed mumps soon after returning from travel in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, other camp attendees and staff members developed mumps, and mumps spread to multiple locations after the camp attendees returned home.

Although reports of mumps are on the decline, it is possible that mumps may still be circulating this summer. Mumps is a highly communicable disease that can be spread rapidly in camp settings. It is important to promptly identify and report suspect mumps cases among campers and camp employees to your local health department in order to rapidly contain outbreaks. Delays in reporting can allow the mumps to spread, can disrupt the camp season, and can spread once the campers and staff return home. This letter will discuss how to recognize and report mumps to the local health department, and which vaccines are recommended for both campers and staff.

Recognizing Mumps

Common symptoms of mumps are:

  • feeling tired and achy;
  • fever; and
  • swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands, particularly the ones in front of the ear called the parotid glands.

Mumps is spread through the air by droplets from the mouth, nose or throat of a person with mumps, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks. People can spread mumps from 3 days before their glands begin swelling through 5 days after the swelling began.

Reporting Mumps

Mumps disease is reportable by law, and even one case needs to be reported right away. The camp health director or other healthcare provider should discuss with staff the symptoms of mumps. The need to report the first sign of illness to the director should be stressed. If mumps is suspected in even one camper or camp employee, or a cluster of people have symptoms that might be caused by mumps, your local health department should be notified immediately. Delays in reporting have led to large outbreaks at camps. Camp operators must also report to the permit-issuing official.

Preventing Mumps

The best protection against mumps is broad vaccination coverage. Therefore, vaccination of all individuals who will be working in or attending summer camps is recommended.

New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) recommends 2 doses of mumps vaccine for all campers and camp employees born on or after January 1, 1957. Experience with outbreaks has shown 2 doses of mumps vaccine to be more effective than 1 dose. Most U.S. residents receive 2 doses of mumps vaccine in the form of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), first at age 12-15 months, and a second dose upon school entrance. However, international camp employees and some campers may have received only 1 dose, or no doses, of mumps vaccine. To ensure maximum protection against mumps, the state Health Department recommends 2 doses of MMR as soon as possible for all campers and camp staff, who:

  • were born on or after January 1, 1957;
  • have had fewer than 2 doses of MMR; and
  • have no history of mumps.

It's preferable that the doses be received before the start of camp. The second dose should be given no sooner than 28 days after the first dose.

Additional Information

For more information about immunizations given in other countries, or immunizations in general, please call your local health department or the NYSDOH Bureau of Immunization at 518-473-4437. More information can be obtained at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases' Web site at

Thank you for your efforts to keep camps free of vaccine-preventable disease.


Debra Blog, M.D., M.P.H.
Bureau of Immunization