Mumps outbreak poses student risk

Derek Lenehan

Students were warned through a FlashLine message that the Midwest mumps outbreak may have reached Ohio, and anyone who has not received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination should do so.

Symptoms

• Fever

• Headaches

• Painful swelling of salivary glands, located between the ear and the jaw

Mumps can lead to deafness and meningitis, according to the e-mail.

Mary Reeves, director of University Health Services, said the most important thing to do is raise awareness.

“The first rule of prevention is education,” she said. “Hopefully people will find out if they have been immunized. Most people don’t know.”

Reeves said the disease is not as serious or deadly as headline-grabbing illnesses like the bird flu, but it still should be taken seriously.

“It’s an acute viral infection,” she said, which runs the risk of developing complications like those in the message, as well as pancreatitis.

Kim Villers, nurse with the Portage County Health Department, added that the illness can cause fertility problems for women and a special threat for men called orchitis. Orchitis is the inflammation of the testicles.

Villers said that the majority of people that get infected will develop the swollen glands, while 20 percent will show no symptoms at all. She said only a minority will develop the severe complications.

Villers said that vaccinations cost $8, though there are certain circumstances where individuals should not get it.

“It’s a live vaccine,” she said. “Anyone with cancer, any recent blood transfusions, anyone that is pregnant (should not get the vaccine),” she said.

The outbreak is affecting mostly adults between the ages of 18-25, Villers said, which may indicate that a particular batch of vaccinations were mishandled or ruined.

Another possible explanation is the illness is hitting people that did not become immune after receiving the inoculation shot. Villers said that the federal government recommends two shots, one during infancy and usually another before kindergarten because 5 percent to 10 percent of people who receive the shot do not gain immunity.

The outbreak has infected at least 605 people across the Midwest, Villers said. It originated in Iowa in December.

“They’re matching it from a strain from England,” she said.

There have been 70,000 cases of mumps in Great Britain, Reeves said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected]