ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A mumps outbreak – 13 confirmed cases as of September 25 – has spread in Anchorage, according to the joint press release of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Municipality of Anchorage.
Mumps is a viral infection that primarily impacts the salivary glands and is spread by "coughing, sneezing, talking, and sharing cups or utensils," according to local health officials.
This is Alaska's first outbreak in over two decades. According to state records, Alaska's last outbreak – 10 confirmed cases – took place in Kodiak in 1995.
The current outbreak includes people between the ages of 14 to 58 years, according to Amanda Tiffany, epidemiologist with the State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology. About 60-percent of the people infected are among the municipality's Pacific Islander population.
"The other cases are quite mixed," says Tiffany.
Across the United States, health officials are also reporting outbreaks of mumps. According to the joint press release, state health officials "suspect a traveler from outside Alaska may have brought the virus to Anchorage."
Mumps is a contagious disease and symptoms commonly include swelling of the cheeks and jaw, fever, pain in-and-around the ears, headache, body ache, and testicular swelling.
If you think you might have mumps, state health officials advise that individuals call their health care providers before they seek care.
"We do that because these people could be infectious if they do have mumps," says Tiffany. "Sometimes the provider will set a specific appointment so that the individual doesn't have to wait in the waiting room."
She also recommends that infected individuals "self-isolate," meaning that the patient stay home for five days after symptoms begin.
If you don't have mumps, "the best way to protect yourself and your family is vaccination," says Tiffany.
She adds that the mumps vaccine provides about 88-percent protection against mumps after two doses.
"It's also important to remember that although you've been vaccinated, you can still have mumps," Tiffany says. "I know it's a contradictory message, but it's important for individuals to realize."
In Anchorage, the State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology is seeing cases of mumps in the bodies of both individuals who were previously vaccinated and who were never vaccinated. Moreover, Tiffany clarifies that zero individuals became infected from the vaccination itself.
"It (mumps) wasn't a result of vaccination," she states. "It was an infection after they were fully vaccinated."
Nearly all students in the Anchorage School District have had two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, according to the joint press release.
"Anyone unsure of their vaccination status should contact their health care provider," state health officials say.
More information on mumps and the necessary vaccines can be found HERE on the Section of Epidemiology’s webpage.