Health officials are now confirming 28 cases of mumps in an outbreak at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, in the last week. Mumps, which is considered to be something of the past, began its decline in the U.S. after a vaccine was introduced in 1967. However, the vaccine has not completely eradicated the disease. While it occurs in small numbers annually in the states, it is much more prevalent in underdeveloped countries. For this reason, it seems somewhat surprising that mumps has broken out among the population of Ohio State University.
The outbreak has affected at least 23 students and one staff member. An additional four cases are allegedly connected as well. The age range of the affected mumps patients is reported to be from 18 to 48, with both males and females suffering symptoms. According to Liz Cook, spokeswoman for the university, the students have just returned from spring break and there are more cases expected due to the long incubation period. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination in all children to prevent the mumps virus. However Ohio State University has not made the MMR vaccine a requirement.
The mumps outbreak at Ohio State University has now gotten health officials working hard on quarantining the virus and educating the local population on prevention. The hunt for the source of the mumps virus on campus has not yet produced a solid answer. In the meantime, at least three have been hospitalized, all within a 24-hour period. Those who have not been vaccinated are being urged to do so. However, according to Jose Rodriguez of Columbus Public Health, the MMR vaccine is not 100 percent effective. For this reason, all those with ties to the university and its 57,000 students have been asked to practice good hygiene and educate themselves on the virus.
Mumps is a highly contagious disease spread through saliva and mucus. Oftentimes, it is spread from person to person through unwashed hands, sharing drinks, coughing, and sneezing. In most cases the mumps virus runs its course of about two weeks and does not cause permanent harm. In extremely rare cases it can cause deafness, brain damage, and reproductive issues. Possibly the more daunting problems regarding the mumps virus is that it can be passed from person to person, without showing symptoms, and it can lie dormant for up to 25 days before complications arise. It is for this reason that it becomes a tough task for health officials to track the source.
While the hunt is on to find the source of the mumps virus at Ohio State University, Rodriguez has laid out some specific guidelines for preventing and avoiding infection. They include isolation (if sick), washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and refraining from sharing personal items, such as drinks and utensils. Because many of the infected seem to have contracted the virus during spring break, it is possible that this may only be the beginning of a larger outbreak. Symptoms of the mumps virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, appetite loss, and swollen salivary glands.
By Josh Taub