RICHMOND – Virginia Commonwealth University students receive emails from VCU Health last week reporting two confirmed cases and one suspected case of mumps on campus. Other cases have been reported in the Richmond metro area, and health officials are cautioning students and residents to take precautions.
Mumps is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the first signs of the mumps are usually a few days of fever, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite, followed by swelling of the salivary glands. The disease is preventable by the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine, which most children receive before age 4.
VCU hasn’t been the only target of the mumps these past weeks. Multiple universities have reported cases to the CDC as well:
· U.S. News and World Report reported Monday that Kansas State reached 15 cases of mumps since February.
· WTOP reported Wednesday that George Washington University confirmed two cases of mumps there.
· At Louisiana State University confirmed 20 cases as reported by WAFB on March 28.
· The Seattle Times reported that the University of Washington found 20 cases of mumps that were concentrated in the university’s Greek system
· Chapman University in California found three cases as of April 6, according to the local Fox station.
· Western Illinois University, Appalachian State University and others are all on also the list of universities that have broken out in cases of the mumps in the past few weeks.
It is unclear whether the VCU students or students at other universities received the MMR vaccine. However, even with the vaccination, prevention of the virus is not guaranteed. One dose of the vaccine is about 78 percent effect and two doses roughly 88 percent effective.
This is not the first time the mumps have hit campuses across the states. According to the CDC, there were similar outbreaks throughout many universities in 2011-2013, 2014 and 2015-2016. One outbreak even went as far as affecting the National Hockey League.
Dr. Melissa Viray, deputy director for the Richmond City Health District, said that so far, there is no correlation between the outbreaks and university campuses. But one explanation is that mumps spreads easily when people are in close contact with each other, such as attending the same class or living in the same dormitory.
Viray said another reason is that people aren’t as concerned as they used to be about diseases like mumps.
“I think what we are seeing overall, not just in mumps but other preventable diseases, is that people are less afraid of diseases like measles, mumps and polio that they don’t push getting a vaccine as much,” Viray said. “They may not vaccinate their kids on the advised schedule, and it puts their children at risk.”
The CDC recommend two doses of the MMR vaccine received at a young age. Even if students have received the MMR vaccinations, students should take extra precautions to avoid the mumps. Wash hands regularly, do not share food or drink and stay home if sick.
Words By Mary Lee Clark via VCU Capital News Service