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13 confirmed mumps cases in Anchorage outbreak

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: September 23, 2017
  • Published September 22, 2017

Multiple cases of mumps have been confirmed in Anchorage, officials said Friday.

"We're currently experiencing a mumps outbreak in Anchorage and right now we have 13 confirmed cases," said Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist and chief of the section of epidemiology with the Department of Health and Social Services.

Mumps is a viral illness that causes headaches, fever and swollen salivary glands under the jaw.

It's the first outbreak in Alaska in decades. The last one was in 1995 in Kodiak, when 10 people were infected, according to the state.

In the past five years, there have only been three cases reported, and all were from people who contracted the illness out of state, McLaughlin said.

The current outbreak cases range from ages 14 to 58. About 60 percent have been among Anchorage's Pacific Islander population. And roughly half of the cases were in people who had received mumps vaccinations.

"It's really important to note that if people were not vaccinated our case counts would be much, much higher than they are," McLaughlin said.

Mumps vaccinations, which come in two doses, are 88 percent effective in preventing the illness.

The virus is passed through coughing and sneezing and touching objects with unwashed hands. Symptoms can take around two or three weeks to develop, and people are contagious for two days before salivary glands start to swell, and five days afterward.

McLaughlin said that if you suspect you have mumps, call your health care provider before heading to the clinic to minimize the risk of spreading the illness in the waiting room.

People with mumps should self-isolate themselves for five days after the onset of swelling glands, McLaughlin said. There's no cure for mumps, just supported care.

In rare cases, serious complications can occur, including permanent hearing loss and meningitis. Adults tend to be hit harder by mumps than children, McLaughlin said.

Nationally, mumps cases vary greatly from year to year. In 2017, there have been around 4,500 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Municipality of Anchorage has been working to inform people about the mumps cases for about a month, said Shannon Kuhn, spokeswoman for the municipality's Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have been doing a lot of community outreach and education on the ground," Kuhn said.

On Wednesday, Anchorage child care providers received a letter about the illness and outbreak, Kuhn said. More announcements from the municipality would be coming next week.

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