Remember the mumps - when you looked like a live chipmunk and wished you were a dead one?

According to statistics released by the federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, fewer and fewer of today's children are going to be able to answer "yes" to that question when they become adults.

There were 21,436 reported cases of the glandular infection in the United States last year - the smallest annual total since reporting of the disease began in 1922, according to the CDC.

If present trends continue, the number of cases reported in 1978 will be still lower. There have been only 13,471 cases reported thus far this year, and the incidence of mumps peaks in the winter and spring, which means that the bulk of this year's cases should already have occurred.

Only two cases of the viral infection, which causes painful swelling of the salvary glands, have been reported in the District of Columbia thus far this year.

Physicians and hospitals are requred to report cases of mumps along with certain other communicable diseases, but some health officials estimate that only about 10 to 20 percent of the cases are ever reported.

If that estimate is correct, there may have been as many as 20 cases in the city in the past year, but that still places Washington among the leaders in jurisdictions reporting low numbers of cases.

Mump's generally a benign disease, sending a child to bed for up to two weeks and causing a sore throat, fever and the characteristic swollen glands.

In the seven-year period between 1969 and 1975, there were 95 mumps-associated deaths reported nationwide by CDC, with most of those deaths caused by encephalitis, a swelling of the lining of the brain caused by the mumps virus.

The disease is generally considered more serious and is far less common among persons over 15 years old. While only 10.5 percent of all mumps case occurred in persons older than 15, however 15.4 percent of mumps-related encephalitis and 22.1 percent of mumps-related meningitis, a swelling of the lining of the spinal cord, occurred in that group.

According to the CDC report, the number of reported cases last year was 44.3 percent below that reported in 1976, and 66.4 percent below the average number of cases reported between 1972 and 1976.

The general decrease began in 1968, following the licensing of a vaccine to prevent the infection. The number of cases per hundred thousand persons in the country fell from about 150 in 1967 to about 40 in 1969.