Mumps outbreak spreads with 71 confirmed cases in Anchorage

CDC / Allison M. Maiuri
CDC / Allison M. Maiuri(WCAV)
Published: Dec. 1, 2017 at 8:09 PM AKST
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A mumps outbreak has continued to spread throughout Anchorage with 71 confirmed cases and 15 probable cases reported since May. The state recommends people be especially vigilant identifying and treating the infection during the holidays.

As of Dec. 1, the mumps outbreak has not spread beyond the Municipality of Anchorage.

Dr. Amanda Tiffany, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Social Services, says the Alaskan mumps outbreak mirrors a trend seen nationally. She says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 4,900 cases of mumps this year. 47 states and the District of Colombia have all reported cases of mumps, according to Dr. Tiffany.

To put the outbreak in perspective, the DHSS says it saw less than five confirmed cases of mumps between 2012 and 2017. And all of those were travel related, meaning the infection was contracted outside Alaska and then brought into the state.

The DHSS can’t be sure where this latest mumps outbreak started but nearby states have also reported significant mumps cases this year. Hawaii has reported more than 500 cases and Washington State has reported over 300 cases.

The current recommendation from the Department of Health and Social Services is to stay up-to-date with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR). “For Anchorage residents who self-identify as native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, we recommend a second dose of MMR,” Dr. Tiffany said.

She says a third dose is recommended for people who have had a second dose within the past five years.

Dr. Tiffany explains the vast majority of reported cases have been seen in the Pacific Islander and native Hawaiian communities because the infection is spread through close contact.

The DHHS has some recommendations if a person suspects they may be infected with mumps:

- Go to a healthcare provider. Dr. Tiffany says due to the similarity of its symptoms, mumps can often appear as other illnesses .

- The MMR vaccine should be covered by health insurance or Medicaid.

- If you experience facial swelling or a cough, tell family and friends because mumps has a long incubation period.

- It’s especially hard during the holidays but the state says its essential to self-isolate for five days after symptoms start.