According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the pre-vaccine era, there has been more than a 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States. However, outbreaks can occur when people are in a crowded environment.
Here on our campus, we recently had a mumps outbreak, with 54 confirmed cases. What are the mumps and how did they make a comeback in Cape Girardeau?
Newsweek reported in February of this year that the mumps virus targets the central nervous system, which is why it can sometimes lead to encephalitis or meningitis. More commonly, mumps leads to painfully swollen salivary glands, fever, muscle pain, headaches and tiredness. No medical treatment for mumps exists, but the risk of damaging side effects warrants preventive measures.
Dr. Bruce Skinner, Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Auxiliary Services at Southeast said our outbreak began with students in our Greek community. Skinner said that subsequently, there were multiple cases within houses where members of the same Greek fraternity and sorority lived. Skinner reported that in his conversations with Cape Girardeau County Public Health, it was mentioned that there may be a ten year cycle where mumps comes back and there is an outbreak even though the population is highly vaccinated against the mumps.
The Journal of Virology has suggested that rather than developing a new vaccine to combat mutated strains, revaccination during adolescence to combat waning immunity might be the most effective measure. Army recruits who received the MMR vaccine from the military have not experienced outbreaks despite belonging to the same age group as college students and residing in environments similar to those of university campuses.