Repeated introductions and intensive community transmission fueled a mumps virus outbreak in Washington State.


In 2016/2017, Washington State experienced a mumps outbreak despite high childhood vaccination rates, with cases more frequently detected among school-aged children and members of the Marshallese community. We sequenced 166 mumps virus genomes collected in Washington and other US states, and traced mumps introductions and transmission within Washington. We uncover that mumps was introduced into Washington approximately 13 times, primarily from Arkansas, sparking multiple co-circulating transmission chains. Although age and vaccination status may have impacted transmission, our dataset could not quantify their precise effects. Instead, the outbreak in Washington was overwhelmingly sustained by transmission within the Marshallese community. Our findings underscore the utility of genomic data to clarify epidemiologic factors driving transmission, and pinpoint contact networks as critical for mumps transmission. These results imply that contact structures and historic disparities may leave populations at increased risk for respiratory virus disease even when a vaccine is effective and widely used.

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