Health alert issued for mumps outbreak in Brooklyn

The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued an alert (pdf) to healthcare providers in response to a record mumps outbreak in New York and New Jersey. The CDC traced the path of infection back to an asymptomatic 11-year-old boy who carried it from an epidemic in England to an orthodox summer camp in Sullivan County. When camp ended, 24 infected children, most of them boys, took the infection home with them, most to Borough Park.

Cases in Williamsburg, Ocean County, Orange County, Monmouth County, Sullivan County and Quebec, all of which have active orthodox communities, have almost all been traced back to either directly to the camp or to the community in Borough Park. The outbreak has traveled very little outside the orthodox community, who are more likely to send their children to private religious education than public schools.

Although some stories are suggesting that the infected children weren't vaccinated for religious reasons, of the 179 cases identified by the end of October only 13% had not been vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in early childhood. An additional 14% had only one of the two recommended MMR shots. According to the 2008 National Immunization Survey, that's roughly in line with the national numbers. The survey found that variance in the rate of vaccination was more likely to be economic than religious or cultural. The DOH says that the MMR vaccine is only 76-95% effective if administered properly.

Mumps is mostly spread by sneezing or coughing, and authorities recommend you protect yourself by doing all the things you're already doing to protect yourself from the flu (details here).


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