The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is warning people about a mumps outbreak in Anchorage.

Since May, there have been 13 confirmed cases reported to the state, all within the Municipality of Anchorage. The people infected range in age from 14 to 58.

State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said the cases are spread throughout the community, not isolated to one area.

“Sometimes mumps outbreaks can be easier to control if they’re confined, for example, to a college dormitory,” McLaughlin explained. “When you have a community-wide outbreak, it can be difficult to control.”

Symptoms of mumps include swelling in the cheeks or jaw, sore throat, fever and muscle aches. The disease is transmitted through saliva and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, talking or sharing cups or silverware.

McLaughlin said it’s important for people to get the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

Two doses of that vaccine are only 88 percent effective, however; so, McLaughlin said it is still possible for people who have been vaccinated to contract the virus.

There is no specific treatment for the mumps. People infected will likely be sick for one to three weeks.

McLaughlin said people who think they may have the mumps need to call their healthcare provider before going to the doctor so they don’t infect other people in the waiting room.

“You can spread the virus two days prior to the onset of swollen cheeks to five days after the swollen cheeks start. So, that’s the period we want people to stay home from work, stay home from school and self-isolate and try to minimize contact with other people,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin expects more cases of the mumps to be confirmed and said the outbreak could go on for months or even a year.

Alaska’s last major mumps outbreak was in Kodiak in 1995 when 10 cases were reported.

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