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Recent Spike in Harvard Mumps Cases May Affect Spring Commencement

APR 27, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Updated: 4/28/2016 at 10:28 EST 

From Friday April 22, 2016 to Tuesday, April 27, 2016, the number of confirmed mumps cases at Harvard University rose from 34 to 41. What started out as two cases of mumps on two different campuses in early March may now be a cause for concern.

Although Harvard University policy states that all incoming freshman are required to receive a Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine, on March 1, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) confirmed two cases of mumps on two of its campuses: one at the College and the other at Harvard Divinity School. At the same time, 14 other university campuses reported high numbers of mumps cases.

After 6 cases were confirmed, in compliance with University policy, the contagious students were quarantined [at the Harvard Inn] for 5 days, in an effort to contain the outbreak. By the end of March, the number of infections had spiked to 16, and spread to other universities in the state of Massachusetts.

HUHS spokesperson, Lindsey Baker, reported that there are currently less than 12 students in quarantine, either at the Harvard Inn or in their own residence. Paul J. Barreira, director of HUHS expressed concerns regarding the recent rise of infections. “I’m actually more concerned now than I was during any time of the outbreak,” he stated. “The concern is that if there’s a spike this week, that means those students expose others, so now we’re looking at a potential serious interruption to Commencement for students. Students will get infected, and then go into isolation.” According to the school’s website, spring commencement is scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2016.

Barreira attributes the rise in mumps infections to students’ lack of preventive action. “Students are not acting in a responsible way, knowingly exposing other students to the virus,” Barreira said. “It’s both disappointing and frustrating because I thought we were on the decline.”

Rohit Bhalla, DO, Chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at the University Medical Center of Princeton, explains what the public can do to protect themselves from contracting mumps.

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