- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - State health officials say the number of mumps cases in northwest Arkansas appears to be leveling off, though the region’s outbreak is still considered the largest in the country.

The Arkansas Department of Health said there were 2,400 confirmed or strongly suspected cases as of Jan. 5. State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow said health officials were seeing 40 or 50 new cases a day at the height of the outbreak in the fall season, but are now seeing about 10 new cases of mumps per day, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2iZMCgJ ) reported.

Mumps cases have been confirmed in Rogers, Fayetteville and other nearby communities since officials first announced the outbreak in August. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the region’s outbreak is the largest in the country and accounted for about half of the nation’s mumps cases last year.

A CDC spokesman said a visitor from Iowa infected by the virus may have started the mumps outbreak in the area.

Mumps symptoms can include fever, aches and swollen salivary glands. The disease can be spread by coughing or other contact involving an infected person’s saliva. The CDC said two doses of the vaccine can protect approximately 88 percent of people exposed to the virus. The majority of people who have become ill during Arkansas’ outbreak have been vaccinated.

Northwest Arkansas is home to a large population of people from the Marshall Islands, and the state health department says they have been most affected by the outbreak - with about 60 percent of the cases found among that population.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences physician Dr. Sheldon Riklon said the Marshallese may be more vulnerable to the virus because they tend to live in close quarters with family members. Haselow noted that the Marshallese are vaccinated as routinely as the general population and didn’t cause the outbreak.

Both doctors said the pace of infection in the community has been falling the fastest.

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.nwaonline.com


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