Since May 6, three UT students have been diagnosed with mumps, a highly contagious viral infection. Mumps is incredibly preventable with a vaccine. Given the recent diagnoses, it is a good time for the University to review its policy on vaccinations.
Because the mumps vaccine has been in widespread use since the 1960s, an outbreak of mumps like the one on our campus (albeit rather small and contained) is rare. The use of the mumps vaccine in the United States is so widespread that the University does not require incoming American students to offer proof of vaccination. However, international students are required to provide documentation of a current vaccination against meningitis, as well as a negative tuberculosis test and proof of immunity to mumps.
Given the health standards for international students, it is safe to say that the small mumps outbreak originated with a native student. Though university officials have assured students that we are not at risk for a wider outbreak, the small number of rare cases creates a good opportunity for the University to review its vaccination policies to further safeguard campus.
The University would be well-served to review its policies for the meningitis vaccine, as well. HB 1816 and SB 1107, which were enacted in 2011, require all incoming students under the age of 21 to have had a meningitis vaccine within five years before entering the institution. The law says nothing about having a current meningitis vaccine throughout one’s time in college. While antibodies from the vaccine can remain in one’s blood after five years from the date of vaccination, they also may not.
UT should consider amending their vaccination policies to expand protection throughout one’s time in college to prevent health incidents like the one currently being experienced on the Forty Acres. At the very least, students should be more aware of their health and vigilant in remaining current on vaccinations that protect them from harmful diseases, especially if they are living in university housing, where it is easier to catch and spread diseases.
Smith is a senior history and humanities major from Austin.
Correction: This article has been amended since its original publication. In a previous version, a quote was included that said the first two mumps diagnoses had not received the mumps vaccination. Additionally, international students have to prove immunity to mumps.