Officials say students not at risk for mumps

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Despite three official mumps diagnoses in the last two weeks, University health officials say students are not at risk of infection.

University officials first notified students about an undergraduate student being diagnosed with mumps on May 6. University Health Services then diagnosed a second student May 11 and a third on May 13. UHS medical director David Vander Stratten said the cases are localized and do not pose a threat to the greater student populace.

“My understanding is that the cases we have seen have all be very, very closely linked to just a relatively small number of students who had pretty close contact with each other,” Vander Stratten said.

Mumps is an infectious disease with early symptoms including fevers, body aches and tiredness; those infected also experience severe swelling of the salivary glands a few days after infection. Notifying students of and screening for the disease has been a collaborative effort, Vander Stratten said.

“We’re continuing to work closely with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services department,” Vander Stratten said. “We continue to screen students when they present here at UHS with concerns that are consistent with the current case definition as provided by the health department.”

Mumps cases are relatively rare after the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine began being heavily administered in the late 1960s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the last year, fewer than three cases have been reported in Travis County, Vander Stratten said.

“It’s certainly outside the norm in what we typically see,” Vander Stratten said.

The MMR vaccine comes in two parts — one dose is administered at 1 year old and the second at 4 years old. While the MMR vaccine is required for students entering public school in Texas and for international students entering the University, many colleges allow for vaccination exemptions based on personal or religious convictions.

“Usually, if you get both doses of the MMR vaccine as directed, you have an excellent chance of controlling mumps, and the chance of you getting mumps is extremely slim,” said Bradley Berg, a pediatrician at Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock. 

Berg said students could spread the disease to small children, who are most at risk for infection, especially if those children have not yet received the full MMR vaccine.

“Mumps tends to be more dangerous for little kids, and we’re always concerned,” Berg said. “What ends up happening is all these kids take off and go home, and they take those mumps with them to their hometowns where they might have infants that haven’t been vaccinated yet, or they have small kids who have not completely vaccinated yet.”

Kristan Schiele,  public health and spanish senior and president of Texas Pubic Health, said she was shocked to hear about the mumps diagnoses, especially when UHS reported a second and third incidence.

“College kids can be, by nature, susceptible to a lot of diseases just because you have a lot of people in very close settings, so I’m sure something like this is bound to happen,” Schiele said. “But it’s still kind of scary because this is a disease people can get vaccinated for.”

An earlier version of this article contained an inaccurate quote. That quote has since been deleted.