State officials warn the mumps are likely to reappear on college campuses this fall. State epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk is advising everyone who’s connected to a college campus to make sure they’ve had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
“All college students and, to be honest, kids who socialize with college students and the staff of colleges should have two doses of the MMR vaccine,” Quinlisk says.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has sent notices to every college campus in the state, urging college officials to e-mail an advisory to every one on campus about the need for two doses of the vaccine. “We’re just hoping that people understand that this is important,” Quinlisk says.
The MMR vaccine is available — at free or reduced cost — in every county in the state according to Quinlisk. There was a spring outbreak of mumps in Iowa and officials say 25 percent of those who contracted mumps were Iowa college students who, in effect, took mumps home and spread it to others.
Quinlisk says there are a several reasons college-aged students are at greater risk of contracting mumps. Most notably most college students either live in dorms, crowded fraternity or sorority houses or in apartments with a number of other tenants and come in close contact with others. Students or others between the ages of 18 and 46 can still receive free or low-cost MMR vaccinations from their local public health department.
Despite the precautions, however, Quinlisk expects mump cases to be reported on college campuses this fall. “If you go back in history, you’ll see that mumps typically was a spring disease and it would come back every fall after disappearing every summer,” Quinlisk says. “We are concerned it will come back. We know that there’s still mumps cases occurring in Iowa out there and if it gets back onto our college campuses and they are not adequately vaccinated we indeed could end up with outbreaks of mumps occurring this fall.”
State public health officials are recommending that colleges stage vaccination clinics in “heavy traffic areas such as the bookstore, memorial unions, common areas and cafeterias.” Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands. It’s spread through coughing, sneezing and saliva.
Symptoms include the swelling of the glands closest to the jaw — hence the name “mumps.” In addition, most patients with mumps have a fever with a headache and muscle aches. In severe cases, mumps can case deafness, a miscarriage in women or sterility in men.