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Concern high on LI over mumps outbreak

Microbiologist Sandy Jirsa looks at samples marked with

Microbiologist Sandy Jirsa looks at samples marked with an "M" for mumps. (March 30, 2006) Photo Credit: AP File

Virus trackers in Nassau County are awaiting laboratory results on "a few" possible cases of mumps as their counterparts in Suffolk urge parents to make certain their children's vaccinations are up-to-date.

Public health authorities' concern is high because New York remains in the grip of a major mumps outbreak in Orange and Rockland counties where more than 1,100 cases, largely concentrated among Orthodox Jews, have been reported since last fall.

Health officials in New York City are remaining vigilant because cases escalated in orthodox communities of Brooklyn at the beginning of the year, prompting a communitywide vaccination campaign last month.

Two weeks ago, a small cluster of cases unrelated to orthodox communities, broke out on the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh.

"We are investigating a few suspect cases, but we don't have any confirmation as of today," Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Department of Health said Tuesday. The county has issued an advisory to health care providers, she said.

While there have been no cases in Suffolk, acting commissioner of the county's Department of Health Services, Linda Mermelstein, has issued a statement calling on parents to heed vaccination timetables.

"We urge parents and guardians to safeguard their children's health by making sure they receive the complete series of recommended immunizations," Mermelstein said. "Diseases such as the mumps can spread rapidly and can have severe consequences for infants as well as older children and adults.

Mumps is a viral infection that can cause deafness and male infertility.

Claire Pospisil, spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health, said there has been a decline in the number of cases in the Orange and Rockland areas, but the outbreak itself is not over.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent its own team of disease-trackers to New York to assist in investigating the outbreak.

"Basically, they are targeting the orthodox communities to take additional precautions during Passover, saying if you're ill stay home and make sure you get vaccinated," Pospisil said.

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