Alaska has seen a significant rise in reported cases of mumps. Until 2017, the yearly average for reported cases in last five years has been less than one. Since August of this year, 139 confirmed and probable cases of mumps have been reported to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The Anchorage community has seen the largest increase. It hasn't become a problem in Kodiak's community, but it's important for everyone to know the facts to prevent an outbreak.
What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat. Meningitis, encephalitis, permanent hearing loss, and other serious complications can also occur.
Mumps can be spread by coughing, sneezing, sharing cups and eating utensils, or touching surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards, tables, and other contaminated objects. You can even catch the virus just by talking with an infected person.
Symptoms typically include a combination of the following:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble breathing
- Extended fevers
- Swollen salivary glands, face, or jaw
If you suspect that you or your child may have mumps, don't leave home until you talk with your health care provider! Don't go to work school, or public places. Call your health clinic and tell them that you or your child may have mumps. Doctors won't want you sitting in the waiting area with other patients, potentially spreading mumps to others.
How can mumps be prevented?
The most effective way to prevent mumps is through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine for:
- children younger than 6 years of age: a vaccination at 12–15 months old, with a second dose at 4–6 years old.
- Children ages 7–18 years (not previously vaccinated): one dose of vaccine followed by a second dose after four weeks.
- Adults born 1957 or later (not previously vaccinated): one dose of vaccine. A second dose is recommended for those working in health care facilities or travel internationally.
The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. The mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88% (range: 66-95%) effective when a person gets two doses; one dose is about 78% (range: 49%−92%) effective. Learn more about the MMR vaccine from cdc.gov.
Wash your hands!
You already know that washing your hands is important in avoiding other viruses. Good hand hygiene will help you becoming a carrier of the mumps, too!
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Soap and water are the recommended method, but when they're not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or hand sanitizer.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of your tissue right away. Reusing tissues and keeping used tissues in your pocket can potentially spread the virus.
If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
Want to know more?
KANA's health care providers can provide you with current facts and vaccination information. Ask your provider about preventative options for your family.
Here are some great online resources for learning about mumps:
- World Health Organization (WHO) http://www.who.int/immunization/diseases/mumps/en/
- Alaska Department of Health and Social Services http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/Mumps.aspx
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/
Information for this article provided by the Alaska Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.