Zach Patberg of The Asbury Park Press reports: The township remains part of the country’s largest mumps outbreak in four years as 152 Orthodox Jews here seek treatment for the virus, according to health officials.
Overall, the outbreak among Orthodox Jews in New Jersey and New York has now surpassed 1,500 cases and shows no sign of ending soon, officials said Thursday.
In all of Lakewood, a total of 159 confirmed and 70 suspected cases have surfaced since Sept. 11, Leslie Terjesen of the Ocean County Health Department said this week. Fewer than four months ago there were only 15 confirmed cases.
Terjesen said the county Health Department is working with doctors and community leaders to ensure that people with symptoms are isolated for at least five days.
With 1,521 cases, the regional mumps outbreak is the largest in the United Statets since 2006, when nearly 6,600 cases were reported, mostly in six Midwestern states. Usually fewer than 300 cases are reported annually.
Township Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein said the Jewish residents has been vigilant but relatively calm about the spread of the disease.
Close-knit Orthodox communities such as Lakewood face greater risk of an outbreak because of large families and an insular lifestyle. Kathleen Gallagher, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist, said seating arrangements in religious schools may also be contributing, with students facing each other across tables instead of in rows of desks facing forward.
“People are cautiously aware,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s more like, ‘Keep your eyes open to what’s going on,’ but there’s been no massive panic.”
The average age of the Lakewood patients has been 21. Most have been appropriately vaccinated, Terjesen said. Vaccines are only about 90 percent effective, though since their introduction in 1968, mumps case have dropped from 152,000 a year to 265 annually nationwide, health experts said.
In the new outbreak, the first identified case was an 11-year-old boy who got sick in late June. He had just returned from the United Kingdom – where vaccination rates are lower and mumps is more common – before going to the camp in Sullivan County in upstate New York. Other campers got sick, and the outbreak spread to Jewish enclaves in Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange counties in upstate New York, Lakewood and communities in three other New Jersey counties, according to the CDC.
Mumps is spread by coughing and sneezing. Common symptoms are fever, headache and swollen glands. Most cases are in children and teens. It is a mild disease but sometimes can lead to complications such as hearing loss, meningitis and – in rare cases – can lead to sterility.