The number of mumps cases at Temple University has grown by the dozens at Temple University since an outbreak began earlier this semester, sparking concern and conversation.
In the past weeks, officials have taken steps and issued warnings in efforts to prevent further spread of the contagious disease.
While mumps is far less common than in the days before the MMR vaccine, outbreaks crop up every few years, especially in communal living situations like college dorms. Health officials believe the spread is largely confined to the school and don’t expect the disease caused by a virus to make its way into the wider community.
Here’s the latest on what we know:
Not familiar with mumps? Here’s what you need to know about the disease.
Mumps is contagious disease caused by a virus that’s spread through close contact like sneezing, sharing cups, or kissing, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. People can begin to spread mumps a few days before they begin to show symptoms, according to the CDC.
“College students are at a higher risk than most people because they live in places like dorms, are more likely to share cups and utensils, and have — again, close, personal contact — with other people,” Garrow said in a statement. “The vast majority of people in the city don’t have those risk factors.”
So outside of those extreme close quarters, there’s less reason to worry. For instance, SEPTA’s Broad Street Line runs through campus, but the outbreak hasn’t caused alarm for riders, said spokesperson Heather Redfern. “We have a rigorous, daily cleaning routine for all of our stations and vehicles throughout the system,” she said in a statement.
Mumps’ signature symptoms include puffy cheeks, a tender jaw as well as a fever, headache, achy muscles, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Symptoms could take more than two weeks to show up after an initial infection, while recovery typically takes about two weeks. Some peoples’ symptoms may be so mild that may just think they have a cold. Mumps can cause complications, including inflammation of the ovaries or pancreas, as well as encephalitis and meningitis, according to the CDC. Authorities say there’s little risk of complication in generally healthy people.
Cases have nosedived 99 percent since the MMR vaccine was first introduced in the late 1960s. But there’s been a resurgence in recent years, mostly on college campuses, and that could be because the vaccine’s potency may fade after a decade, the Inquirer reported earlier this month.
“Unlike with measles outbreaks, where most of the people are unvaccinated, in these cases, more than half have been vaccinated,” Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Inquirer.
Though mumps is no longer the rite of childhood it was before the vaccine was introduced in 1967, it never entirely went away. According to the CDC, at least 30 states have reported outbreaks since the beginning of the year. Since 2006, there have been several increases in cases and outbreaks about every five years.
There’s no cure, but those with the disease can manage their symptoms by taking medications like Tylenol or Motrin. Self-isolation for five days is recommended, according to Temple. The school also advises those infected to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash hands often, and avoid sharing drinks.