Since the start of the spring semester, there has been one confirmed — and one suspected — case of mumps on Grounds. Dr. Christopher Holstege, Executive Director of Student Health, sent an email to students yesterday describing important measures to avoid and minimize the spread of the contagious disease.
“Mumps virus is present in the upper respiratory tract secretions of infected individuals, and transmission is through respiratory droplets — for example, after sneezing — or through direct contact of saliva or secretions from infected individuals,” Assoc. Prof. of Medicine Costi Sifri, said in an email statement.
To prevent the virus, the CDC recommends receiving the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The series includes two injections, with the first dose administered at one year old and the second between four and six years old.
The U.S. mumps vaccination program began in 1967, before which mumps was a prevalent disease among school-aged children.
Marcia Hornberger, Thomas Jefferson Health District Epidemiologist, described reasons why individuals may opt not to be vaccinated.
“Individuals may choose not to be vaccinated for mumps based on an allergy to a component of the vaccine, other contraindication to the vaccine or an objection to vaccinations,” Hornberger said in an email statement.
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Holstege confirmed more than 99 percent of current University students have received the vaccine series. Although mumps is no longer common in the U.S., outbreaks can still occur.
Vaccination itself may not prove sufficient in curbing the spread of the disease, with an approximately 10 percent susceptibility rate amongst vaccinated individuals.
In a typical year, fewer than five University patients are diagnosed with mumps. Certain factors place individuals at higher risk for coming in contact with the virus.
“There are mumps outbreaks occurring throughout the nation currently and in other countries,” Holstege said. “Travel may place you at risk if you are going into a region where the prevalence of disease is higher.”
Infected individuals will be isolated for five days, Holstege said in his email to the student body.
Jamie Leonard, Director of the Department of Student Health Office of Health Promotions, described isolation as being in a location where the student can recover with the privacy of their own bedroom and bathroom.
“If a student is in a living situation where they do not have their own bedroom and bathroom, we encourage them to go home to their primary residence to recover with family,” Leonard said. “When this is not feasible we work to provide alternative local housing for the student that meets the isolation criteria.”
To avoid mumps and other contagious diseases, Student Health recommends good health practices such as washing hands, covering noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing and receiving adequate sleep and meals.
“If a student thinks they might have mumps, they should call Student Health immediately at any time (day or night) and the clinicians can direct you to the appropriate next steps,” Holstege said.