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Mumps Make Resurgence In U.S.

February 12, 2010

State and federal health officials said on Thursday that an outbreak of mumps, which started in a summer camp last June, has sickened over 1,500 people in New York and New Jersey.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a weekly report that the outbreak is the biggest the U.S. has seen since 2006, when over 6,000 people became ill.

According to Reuters, school-age children in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York have largely suffered.  Officials say the group had high vaccination rates, included some that had not been vaccinated or only received one dose of the mumps vaccine.

Dr. Guthrie Birkhead of the New York State Department of Health said that Orthodox Jews account for over 97 percent of the cases, most likely due to the insular nature of their community.

Kathleen Gallagher, a CDC epidemiologist, said many Orthodox Jewish families are large, and the virus spreads well in packed households.

The New York City Department of Health urged this week for young Jewish adults to get vaccinated unless they knew they had been vaccinated in the past.

“Mumps can lead to serious complications in people who are not vaccinated, especially adults,” said Dr. Jane Zucker, assistant commissioner for immunization.

Health officials said the mumps vaccine is 79 to 95 percent effective if two doses are given, so illnesses will still occur in vaccinated people when the virus spreads.

The number of U.S. mumps cases was vastly cut to less than 500 in the early 2000s due to widespread vaccination with the measles, mumps and rubella or MMR vaccine.

However, concerns that the vaccine could cause autism prompted some parents not to protect their children.

Mumps made a resurgence in Britain, the Balkans and Moldova last year. 

Complications from mumps can include viral meningitis, hearing loss and reproductive problems for men.

The current U.S. outbreak appears to have started with an 11-year-old boy that returned from a trip to Britain in June, and then infected kids at a summer camp last year. 

There have been 1,521 cases reported as of January 29, two-thirds of which were between the ages 7 to 18.  Although no one has died, there have been 19 people hospitalized.  Three-fourths of those infected were male.

The mumps virus can mutate, which leaves people that only had one or even two doses of vaccine vulnerable.  It is spread by coughing and sneezing.

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