Combining genomics and epidemiology to track mumps virus transmission in the United States.


Unusually large outbreaks of mumps across the United States in 2016 and 2017 raised questions about the extent of mumps circulation and the relationship between these and prior outbreaks. We paired epidemiological data from public health investigations with analysis of mumps virus whole genome sequences from 201 infected individuals, focusing on Massachusetts university communities. Our analysis suggests continuous, undetected circulation of mumps locally and nationally, including multiple independent introductions into Massachusetts and into individual communities. Despite the presence of these multiple mumps virus lineages, the genomic data show that one lineage has dominated in the US since at least 2006. Widespread transmission was surprising given high vaccination rates, but we found no genetic evidence that variants arising during this outbreak contributed to vaccine escape. Viral genomic data allowed us to reconstruct mumps transmission links not evident from epidemiological data or standard single-gene surveillance efforts and also revealed connections between apparently unrelated mumps outbreaks.

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