Mumps outbreak misses Kenai

An outbreak of mumps that swept through Anchorage in late 2017 has so far not made its way down the Kenai Peninsula.

Alaska ended the year with 168 confirmed and probable cases of mumps, but there have been no laboratory confirmed cases of the virus on the peninsula since the outbreak began last summer, Leslie Felts, nurse manager with the Kenai Sub-region of the Alaska Department of Health &Social Services Division of Public Health, said.

Mumps is a reportable illness, which means that health care providers are required to notify public health officials if they come across any cases.

The 2017 Anchorage outbreak greatly surpassed the number of mumps cases seen in recent years in the state. In the last five years, Alaska has seen one or fewer cases of a mumps per year, according to data provided online by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Symptoms of mumps are fever, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen salivary glands. In some cases, the virus can cause complications like meningitis, encephalitis and permanent hearing loss. The virus generally takes 16 to 18 days to incubate and is most infectious two days before the onset of symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The best ways to prevent transmission is to wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing and avoid contact with others — so stay home from work or school. To prevent infection, the CDC recommends children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine between the ages of 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years old.

Before a nationwide vaccine program was implemented in the 1960s, the number of annual mumps cases were in the hundreds of thousands. While the prevalence of mumps cases has been reduced by approximately 99 percent since then, the past few years have seen spikes in the number of cases reported across the nation, according to the CDC.

Reach Erin Thompson at erin.thompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

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