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College Mumps Outbreaks At Harvard, Sacred Heart Spark Concerns

A mumps outbreak at Harvard University could threaten its May 26 graduation ceremonies.
A mumps outbreak at Harvard University could threaten its May 26 graduation ceremonies. Photo Credit: Harvard University

Mumps cases reported at two Northeast universities are sparking concerns the outbreaks could spread to other colleges.

An outbreak at Harvard that began in early March has reached 41 cases as of Thursday, and could threaten the school's May 26 graduation ceremonies.

A statement on the Sacred Heart University website says the eight cases were detected March 22, and the students have recovered. Nine probable cases have also been identified. 

One additional confirmed case has been identified in a student at a different Connecticut university who spent time with ill students from Sacred Heart University, according to Connecticut's Department of Health. Additional cases are expected to be confirmed, and more people may still develop mumps.

If you have been vaccinated against mumps, your risk of infection is low, DPH said. However, all of the current cases in Connecticut had been vaccinated, DPH said.

"With the end of the school semester approaching, and students dispersing to other locations for the summer, it is important for Connecticut residents to take steps to protect themselves against this highly contagious respiratory disease," said Dr. Raul Pino, DPH commissioner. "The best protection against mumps is to get vaccinated. 

"In a school setting, it is especially important to wash your hands often and avoid sharing items, such as cups and utensils. If you develop symptoms of mumps, stay home and contact your medical provider for advice."

Mumps is a viral infection that is spread through infected respiratory droplets, such as by sneezing or coughing. Signs and symptoms include swelling of the face, cheek and jaw; jaw pain; headache; and/or low grade fever. The infection is usually mild, but can be painful and may have serious complications. 

Anyone with signs of mumps must be isolated for five days from the onset of salivary gland swelling. There is no specific treatment for mumps or exposure to mumps. The incubation period from exposure to onset of symptoms is 16 to 18 days.

Children are routinely vaccinated for mumps at 12 through 15 months of age, and again at 4 through 6 years of age. Vaccination with MMR is required for school attendance in Connecticut.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that anyone born in 1957 or later who does not have evidence of immunity against mumps should have two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days. People born before 1957 do not need to be vaccinated, unless they work in a healthcare facility. 

For more on the Harvard mumps outbreak, click here.

For more information on the mumps, click here or click here.

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