ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The state’s health department says the mumps outbreak in Anchorage has surpassed 200 confirmed cases.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are 215 confirmed cases and 33 probable cases.
An epidemiologist for the state of Alaska says since 2012, it’s seen a 98.7% increase in cases.
“We are definitely concerned.” Dr. Amanda Tiffany said Wednesday. “In the five years prior to 2017 when our outbreak began, Alaska saw three mumps cases so the fact that we are now reporting 248 cases is concerning.”
Most of those cases during those years were travel-related but now, according to Dr. Tiffany, the virus is successfully spreading because people have either developed a waning immunity to vaccinations or aren’t vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88% effective.
This means out of 100 people who are vaccinated, 12 people are still going to get mumps, and while mumps outbreaks aren’t new in Alaska, Dr. Tiffany believes people are vulnerable.
“Historically, when you have really high vaccination coverage, it’s not such an issue to have a waning immunity and low vaccine effectiveness.” The epidemiologist added, “but we do have people who are not being vaccinated, we are having many outbreaks, and people are being infected.”
It’s important to note that the CDC says that Mumps outbreaks still happen even in highly vaccinated communities, however, “high vaccination coverage helps to limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks.”
For now, Dr. Amanda Tiffany is helping spread the word to combat a disease that can be avoided.
"There are people when I speak with them and tell them about the mumps outbreak, they just look at me with a blank face." Dr. Tiffany said. "Oh really mumps, that's a thing?"
The state now recommends a third dose of the MMR vaccine for Anchorage residents who want additional protection against mumps if it has been five years since the second dose or if the resident believes they are vulnerable.