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News Brief: State health officials warn of mumps outbreak

The 12 new cases are among adults ranging in age from 20 to 41 and living in Chelsea, Boston and Revere with no known connection to higher education, and public health officials say that may represent a change in the epidemiology of mumps in Massachusetts.

State health officials warn of mumps outbreak

Boston — On Friday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health alerted greater Boston healthcare providers and local boards of health to a mumps outbreak due to the reporting of 12 cases since the end of March.

To date, the vast majority of confirmed and probable mumps cases in Massachusetts have been among vaccinated college students and others linked to colleges and universities.

The 12 new cases are among adults ranging in age from 20 to 41 and living in Chelsea, Boston and Revere with no known connection to higher education, and public health officials say that may represent a change in the epidemiology of mumps in Massachusetts.

The residents presented symptoms of mumps between March 24 and May 31; 10 of the 12 have shown signs of illness since May 9. All of the residents are Latino and include members of the Colombian, Dominican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities. None are known to have traveled internationally prior to becoming ill. For the majority of the residents, vaccination histories are unknown; most are believed to be unvaccinated against mumps.

“MMR vaccination is highly protective against mumps and is recommended for children and adults,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, M.D., M.P.H., referring to the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine. “In addition, those who have mumps should stay isolated at home for five days after their onset of swelling. Mumps is usually a mild disease but can cause serious illness. If you think you have mumps, stay home and call your healthcare provider.’’

DPH will be reaching out to Latino communities in Massachusetts to increase awareness about mumps and to encourage vaccination. Mumps virus is spread through infected respiratory tract secretions. It can be spread within three to six feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes or with direct contact with infected secretions, such as in sharing water bottles, etc. The incubation period can range from 12 to 25 days. Parotitis, or the swelling of the salivary glands, is the most common symptom, but nonspecific symptoms such as myalgia, anorexia, malaise, headache and low‐grade fever may precede the parotitis by several days. In the pre-vaccine era, 15 to 30 percent of infections were asymptomatic.

People are considered infectious from two days before symptoms begin until five days after the onset of parotid swelling. Therefore, those suspected of mumps should be isolated and should refrain from public activities for five days after the onset of swelling.

In 2016, Massachusetts experienced a large mumps outbreak with 252 reported cases–more than 15 times the usual number of mumps cases. Those cases were part of a national mumps outbreak that saw more than 5,800 mumps cases, the largest number in a decade.

So far this year the mumps outbreak continues in Massachusetts, with nearly 300 suspected cases of mumps investigated and 35 cases confirmed.

For additional information, contact a local health department or DPH at (617) 983-6800 or see DPH’s online fact sheets.

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