Are you protected against mumps? Maybe not anymore
Mumps outbreaks across the nation during 2016 were the worst in a decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through the end of November of last year, the CDC had recorded 3,832 provisional mumps cases across 45 different states and Washington, D.C.
In 2015, a total of 1,329 cases of mumps were confirmed.
According to New Jersey State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan, there were only 29 cases of mumps in the Garden State last year — but officials are staying vigilant.
“We are currently working with all of our healthcare partners to try and identify cases of reportable conditions that might be circulating,” she said.
Tan said any kind of close-knit community may be especially vulnerable to an infectious disease outbreak like mumps.
“Certainly we are concerned about aggregate, congregate settings such as college campuses, where there’s a potential increase in the probability of spread of disease,” she said.
Tan said mumps is probably best known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, and “typically the symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle ache, tiredness, loss of appetite.”
However sometimes, mumps can cause more serious symptoms.
“There is concern about certain complications, especially in adults, such as inflammation of the testicles in males who have reached puberty. Sometimes it can lead to inflammation of the brain, otherwise known as encephalitis, and sometimes it can create problems with the ear, can create deafness in adults who are infected with mumps,” she said.
Tan said mumps is spread from person to person, from infected individuals when they’re coughing, talking or sneezing. Anyone who has not already had mumps or has not received the mumps vaccine can get mumps.
She stressed getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent mumps from infecting you.
Typically the mumps vaccine is given during childhood — one shot at 12 months and a second when a child is 4 to 6 years old. But Tan said people who are older should speak their health care providers to see if they’ve got high enough immune response.
Tan said the mumps vaccine is about 80 to 90 percent effective, but after about a decade its protective effect may start to wear off, “so if people are concerned about that they can go see their doctor.”
"We are following what’s happening in the news and following what our neighboring states are hearing. We do get health alerts as well from some of our neighboring states. We’re a very mobile population. We’re a transportation hub, so that’s why we’re always vigilant for the emergence of these diseases, and it’s why we really encourage people to get up to date on their vaccinations," Tan said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.