A mumps outbreak has continued to spread in Brooklyn’s Jewish communities, attracting the attention of the city’s Department of Health workers who are scrambling to get individuals vaccinated.
The contagious disease, which leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands, was first detected in December among several young males in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park.
Since that time, there have been high levels of cases reported in Brooklyn’s Orthodox neighborhoods for several months. As of February 8, the health department confirmed 909 cases and was in the process of investigating an additional 344. According to health officials, most cases have occurred in males, primarily between the ages of 18 and 30.
“Vaccination against mumps is important for your health, your family’s health, and your community’s health,” said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, the Health Department’s assistant commissioner for immunization. “Mumps can lead to serious complications in people who are not vaccinated, especially adults. If you have not been vaccinated against the mumps, or do not remember if you have received the protective vaccine, get vaccinated.”
The complications that result from the disease can include viral meningitis, hearing loss and reproductive problems for men.
The outbreak has been a topic of discussion among those in Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities. Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of Masbia, which operates kosher soup kitchens in Williamsburg, Borough Park and Flatbush, has read much about the outbreak and heard about several cases in his neighborhoods, but he is not worried.
“Just a few weeks ago I asked my wife. I’ve made sure that my kids have the shots. It’s not going to affect me,” said Rapaport.
While many children receive a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine on or after their first birthday, in addition to a second dose between the ages of four to six years, those who have not received vaccinations can be susceptible to the disease. If infected, it is encouraged to stay at home for five days, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and wash your hands frequently.
The Health Department is encouraging families with regular doctors to call 311 for listings of where children can get vaccinated. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/imm/immmum.shtml.