Mumps cases appear on Virginia campuses

At least 20 confirmed cases of mumps emerged on Virginia college campuses in the past month, according to university administrations, as well as multiple suspected cases.

One confirmed case at VCU came shortly after nineteen cases were confirmed at James Madison University — where at least 14 students and five faculty and staff members have been diagnosed with the viral infection.

Symptoms of mumps include fever, muscle pain, headache and fatigue, followed by swollen salivary glands. Signs can appear two to three weeks after an initial exposure to an infected person’s respiratory droplets — through sneezing or coughing — or by kissing or sharing utensils. Most people get over mumps within two weeks after the onset of symptoms.

According to VCU Student Health Services, at least two measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines are required for full-time students. The list of required shots also includes at minimum three Hepatitis Bs, one Meningococcal, one Tetanus and one polio — or documentation of positive titers to prove immunity or exemption.

Dr. Michael Donnenberg, VCU Department of Internal Medicine professor, supported the provision that all students should have two MMR vaccines by the time they enter college.

“Everybody should have up-to-date vaccinations, so I would advise people to check,” Donnenberg said. “There is no 100 percent effective vaccine. The mumps one is pretty good. The reason you need two is that not everybody is protected by one and that you may lose protection over time.”

Mumps outbreaks can occur at any time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported that the MMR vaccine can be up to 95 percent effective against the current strains of mumps when administered twice, as opposed to as low as 49 percent when taken once.

The remaining percentage of people who have up-to-date shots but may still catch the virus would likely have less severe symptoms and a faster recovery, according to a JMU statement.

Neha Pondicherry, a pre-medicine track student who has conducted research on immunology, said making the choice to not be vaccinated against infections like mumps is dangerous.

“These are known diseases that have proven cures,” Pondicherry said. “If you’re not going to get the vaccinations for a potentially dangerous disease then that’s not being smart in any way. That’s like knowing about the risks of STDs and choosing not to use the protective measures available to you.”

VCU students were first made aware of the confirmed case of mumps on March 13. Dr. Gail Hackett, provost and vice president for academic affairs, emailed a statement telling the community to be on alert for signs and symptoms, contact Student Health Services if symptoms develop, and seek care and self-isolate if they suspect they have the virus.

Donnenberg said keeping to yourself if you are sick is the surest way to prevent outbreaks from occurring.

“Mumps is a self-limited infection — people get it and then they get over it,” Donnenberg said. “It’s really important to minimize transmission to other people.”

Nia Tariq, Staff Writer

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