Seven mumps cases confirmed with more pending

Crowded environments like college campuses are the most vulnerable for mumps outbreaks to occur, said Michael Cooperstock, medical director of MU Health Care’s Infection Control Department.

Seven cases of the mumps have been confirmed in Columbia with an additional seven pending lab results, according to the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health.

The mumps is a contagious disease spread through saliva or mucus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common symptoms are a swollen jaw and cheeks, fever, headache and tiredness.

An email sent to students on July 23 confirmed five cases of mumps in Columbia. One week later, the number of confirmed cases increased to seven confirmed and seven pending. The origin of the outbreak is unknown, said Andrea Waner, spokeswoman of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health.

All seven confirmed cases as of July 30 are individuals between the ages of 20 and 23 who have received the vaccination. No one was hospitalized, Waner said.

Michael Cooperstock, medical director of MU Health Care’s Infection Control Department, said there is no standard speed at which mumps spreads.

“There has only been additional case in a week,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like so far it is (spreading rapidly), but we still have to wait and see how it’s going to unfold.”

Waner said it is encouraging that more potential cases were identified, because it means people are paying attention to the health department’s information.

Cooperstock said it is possible for individuals who have been vaccinated to get the mumps.

“That tells us really that the vaccine is not perfect; we’ve known that for a long time,” he said.

Even though the vaccine might not always protect against contracting the disease, it may make the case milder and its duration shorter, Cooperstock said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, two doses of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine is 88 percent effective at preventing mumps.

MU requires all students born after Dec. 31, 1956, to have the MMR vaccination. MU spokesman Christian Basi said fewer than 90 MU students have an exemption to the MMR policy on file as of March 2015.

An individual with mumps usually has symptoms for about five days, although some cases last for weeks, Cooperstock said.

Waner said the department was notified of the suspected cluster on July 20. There will be an epidemiological investigation of the city to identify risk factors and the source of the outbreak.

A sign posted in residence halls said a resident living in Defoe-Graham Hall was diagnosed with mumps and would not return to the building until no longer contagious. Residential Life Director Frankie Minor could not be reached for comment.

According to state regulations, the mumps are a reportable disease, which means health care providers must report suspected and confirmed diagnoses to a county health department within three days.

MU was notified by the Boone County Health Department and is helping the department spread the word, Basi said.

The age range and high number of visitors during the summer months made alerting the campus community especially important, Basi said. The university’s methods of communication included a campus-wide email, a note in the Chancellor’s weekly update and media releases.

Mumps is not common in the United States; the number of cases can range from the hundreds to the thousands, according to the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The lowest number of cases in the past five years was in 2012, with just 229 cases reported, and 2010 had the highest with 2,612. Crowded environments, such as college campuses, are at a higher risk for mumps, Cooperstock said.

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