By John Lynds
The state’s Department of Public Health’s (DPH) spokeswoman Ann Scales confirmed that some of 12 new cases of mumps that are part of an ongoing outbreak in the area originated in East Boston.
Since the end of March, 12 cases have been reported in Eastie, Boston, Chelsea and Revere among the neighborhood’s Latino population.
Scales said the DPH will be reaching out to the Latino communities here and in the other communities affected by the outbreak in order to increase awareness about mumps and to encourage vaccination.
The DPH usually sees mumps outbreaks among college-age individuals attending local colleges and universities. However, what makes this outbreak unique is it is among adults ranging in age from 20 to 41 with no known connection to higher education. All of the residents hit by the outbreak are Latino and include members of the Colombian, Dominican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran communities. None of those affected is known to have traveled internationally prior to becoming ill. For the majority of the residents, vaccination histories are unknown but most are believed to be unvaccinated against mumps. Unvaccinated individuals are most susceptible to mumps infection.
Health officials reported that this outbreak ‘may represent a change in the epidemiology of mumps in Massachusetts’.
“MMR vaccination is highly protective against mumps and is recommended for children and adults,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, referring to the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. “In addition, those who have mumps should stay isolated at home for 5 days after their onset of swelling. Mumps is usually a mild disease but can cause serious illness. If you think you have mumps, stay home and call your healthcare provider.’’
According to the DPH mumps virus is spread through infected respiratory tract secretions. It can be spread within three to six feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes or with direct contact with infected secretions like sharing water bottles. The incubation period can range from 12 to 25 days. Parotitis, or swelling of the salivary glands, is the most common symptom but non-specific symptoms such as myalgia, anorexia, malaise, headache, and low-grade fever may precede the parotitis by several days. In the pre-vaccine era, 15-30 percent of infections were asymptomatic.
People are considered infectious from two days before symptoms begin until five days after the onset of parotid swelling. Therefore, those suspected of mumps should be isolated and should refrain from public activities for five days after the onset of swelling.
DPH and local health departments are investigating these cases and instituting isolation and quarantine measures to control the spread of mumps.
East Boston Neighborhood Health Center could not confirm if any of the confirmed cases were treated at the clinic.