What started as four infections at the University of Missouri has now grown into an outbreak.
On November 2, 2016, the University of Missouri confirmed the first four cases of mumps in university students. Now the outbreak has reached more than 30 individuals.
In the United States, cases of mumps have not been prevalent since before 1967, when a nationwide vaccination program was established. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, since then, the country saw a decrease of more than 99% of mumps infections. On average, approximately 186,000 mumps cases were reported annually prior to the vaccine program; however, the CDC notes that mumps had been underreported, and the rate of infection was most likely much higher. Now, the annual rate of mumps cases reported to the CDC ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand.
Initially, in Missouri, there were five suspected infections at the university, in addition to the four individuals who tested positive for infection with the mumps virus. Susan Evan, executive director of the Student Health Center confirmed that all students enrolled at the university received the two required Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine doses; nonetheless, there are now a total of 31 confirmed cases, and 27 suspected cases.
According to the CDC, infection with the mumps virus can cause serious complications, such as orchitis, encephalitis, meningitis, oophoritis or mastitis, and deafness. Although not all those who contract mumps show signs or symptoms of infection, some may experience fever, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, decreased appetite, or parotitis. These symptoms usually last between 16 and 18 days after initial mumps infection. All students experiencing signs or symptoms of mumps infection are encouraged to visit the university’s Student Health Center.
The CDC reports that it is not unlikely to see a high case-count of mumps during outbreaks in “highly vaccinated communities,” and, this does not deem the vaccine ineffective. On the contrary, fully-vaccinated individuals who become infected with mumps are less-likely to experience a severe attack rate compared to those who did not receive the two doses of the MMR vaccine.
Local and state public health officials are collaborating with the Student Health Center at University of Missouri to prevent the spread of infection and test probable cases. Health officials are recommending that students cover their coughs and sneezes as infection can spread through mucus or saliva. Students can also become infected if they share eating utensils, cups, or from touching contaminated surfaces or objects and so it is imperative to practice proper hand hygiene, or use hand sanitizers containing alcohol.