Mumps still spreading

HONOLULU — Mumps, commonly considered a disease that affects only young children, is affecting primarily adults and adolescents in Hawaii.

Adults between the ages of 20 and early 40s and adolescents 10 years old and above make up the majority of Hawaii’s recent mumps cases, according to the state Department of Health.

However, the DOH offers practical ways to avoid getting the disease.

“We strongly recommend getting an outbreak dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, especially for those who live, work or socialize regularly in crowded settings,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist and chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division. “It’s also important to stay home when sick and even consider methods of social distancing, which includes avoiding crowded settings and gatherings, and not hugging or kissing when greeting others.

“Based on the cases that we have been able to track, the common denomination has been exposure to some type of gathering, whether school, work, church, family gathering or other social event,” she said.

The total number of confirmed mumps cases statewide as of Jan. 4 stood at 770, with 610 on Oahu, 108 on the Big Island, 49 on Kauai and 3 on Maui.

The ongoing mumps outbreak is by far the worst in several decades for Hawaii, which typically has fewer than 10 cases a year. Park noted that in previous years, mumps cases were imported, but recently outbreak cases have been acquired locally. What began in March as two clusters of cases involving nine individuals on Oahu, increased to 500, with confirmed cases in all counties, by late October.

Hawaii is not the only state that has experienced a mumps epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 2, some 48 states and the District of Columbia reported mumps infections. In addition to Hawaii, Washington, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and New York each reported more than 300 cases in 2017.

The MMR vaccine prevents most cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease.

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