Health officials report ‘unusual’ mumps outbreak, cases expected to rise

There is an outbreak of mumps in the state, and officials expect the number of cases to rise.

The state Department of Health confirmed 14 cases, all on Oahu. DOH says that none of the infected individuals have required hospitalization.

Mumps is easily spread, and causes swollen salivary glands, puffy cheeks, and a swollen jaw. The infection used to be common nationwide, and decreased greatly after people started getting vaccinated.

Still, state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park says outbreaks still occur.

“When we talk and look at other states in the nation, they’re seeing similarly. It’s concerning. For whatever reason, there’s a lot of mumps nationwide,” Park said.

Locally, Park is puzzled by the outbreak. Park says these cases are unusual, because cases are typically isolated. But investigators have been able to link three different clusters of mumps so far this year.

“It’s the end of April. We’re only four months into 2017, and we’ve already gone above what we normally see,” she said.

Park says the health department can’t figure out what caused the mumps outbreak.

“Either they were in the same group, or some similar setting they were in. It’s not necessarily relatives. With all respiratory disease, the closer we are together, the more likely we spread infection,” Park said. “We can connect this person to this person, and that person to that person, kind of like connect the dots. It’s kind of frustrating. It’s not been one unifying thing.”

Park says the clusters of cases show how easily the infection spreads, and adds the respiratory infection is more contagious than the flu. It is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“You just have to have an interaction once with that person who is ill and if you’re susceptible, you’ll get infected,” Park warned.

We learned those infected are a mix of children and adults. Some were vaccinated, but got sick anyway.

The mumps vaccine, when you take two doses, is about 88-percent effective, but Park says it’s still the best method of prevention.

“It’s still a good idea,” she said, “but this is why I’ve always been saying. Just because you’ve been vaccinated doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, spread my germs. Yeah, no. You do not get a free pass from washing your hands.”

Park says it’s likely the number of people infected with mumps will rise, so she’s urging people: “Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t spread your germs. That’s how its spread. It’s person to person. They don’t have to face you directly, but if they’re coughing or sneezing, they could be spewing germs on you either directly or in your computer, and you lean over. It’s being mindful of the potential for this way of transmitting infection.”

Health officials say that there is no specific treatment for mumps infection. Most people recover completely.

In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. Complications include:

  • Meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Deafness (temporary or permanent)
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
  • Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty
  • Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty

Officials also say that while cases have been reported in vaccinated individuals, the best protection against the disease is vaccinations.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. DOH says that all children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is given at age 12–15 months and the second dose at 4–6 years of age.

All adults born in or after 1957 should also have documentation of vaccination, unless they have had a blood test showing they are immune to mumps. Certain adults at higher risk of exposure to mumps may need a second dose of MMR vaccine.

Two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective at protecting against mumps and one dose is 78 percent effective.

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The classic symptom of mumps is called parotitis, which is a swelling of the salivary glands under the ears, resulting in a tender, swollen jaw. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

Persons should seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms.

People with mumps are most infectious in the several days before and after the onset of parotitis. The disease is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Transmission can also occur when sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Persons with mumps should stay home from school or work for nine days after the onset of parotitis to keep from spreading the disease to others.

MMR vaccine is available at local pharmacies. To locate a vaccinating pharmacy in your community, visit or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

Additional information about mumps can be found on the DOH website at

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