Four New Mumps Cases Diagnosed In Outbreak At University of Texas at Austin

Another four cases of mumps were diagnosed on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, bringing the total number of cases in the university outbreak to seven. The Travis County Health Department notified the University of the four new cases yesterday afternoon.

The first case in the outbreak was diagnosed May 6 following lab testing that confirmed a university physician’s suspicions. Since then, the university has been working with the count and state health departments to test others with symptoms of the viral illness and allow tracing back of their contacts to identify others at risk.

“We feel like this is still relatively isolated, and we anticipated and expected to see another few cases,” said Dr. David Vander Straten, the medical director of University Health Services. “I don’t think we’re necessarily out of the woods yet because the incubation can be up to 25 days.” The incubation period refers to how long an individual may be infected with the virus before symptoms appear.

Symptoms of mumps typically include a fever, tiredness, aches, and the tell-tale swelling of the parotid (salivary) glands (for which the disease was named), which can make it difficult to eat, said Dr. Mary Healy, the director of Vaccinology and Maternal Immunization at the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children’s Hospital. Mumps spreads easily among those without immunity because it’s transmitted through saliva and secretions from the respiratory tract, she said.

At the same time, however, somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of those infected with the virus may not experience any symptoms at all, Vander Straten said. The University has been educating students that the viral illness is usually mild and that students can reduce their risk of infection by practicing good hygiene, including washing their hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into their sleeves, and not sharing drinks or eating utensils.

It appears that the first three individuals diagnosed had received at least one dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, Vander Straten said. However, the mumps portion of the vaccine is estimated to be only about 88 percent effective – it’s the “weak sister” of the three, as Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me during the NHL mumps outbreak last fall.

International students at UT, comprising 4,000 to 5,000 of the total student population, are required to show proof of immunization with the MMR, but domestic students are not. Most domestic students at UT come from Texas, Vander Straten said, and would have been subject to the state’s immunization requirement of an MMR to attend public school. While working to maintain the infected students’ privacy, the university has been notifying students and faculty if they may have been exposed and instructing those diagnosed to self-quarantine themselves and to wear a mask if they must be around anyone. Most individuals recover within a few weeks, and they are no longer infectious five days after the parotid gland swelling first appears.

The school is not currently recommending that any students get a booster of the MMR, but students and staff at the university should make sure they are up to date with the vaccine, Healy said. “If they are not, they should certainly talk to their health care provider about getting a dose of MMR as soon as possible,” she said. “If a person has only had one shot as a kid, they should get the second one now unless there is a medical reason not to. Ensuring as many people as possible in the community have received MMR vaccine as is appropriate for their age is very important in terms of preventing mumps taking hold in a community and causing outbreaks.”

Complications are not usually severe with mumps; the most common is swelling in males’ testicles, called orchitis, or in females’ ovaries, called oophoritis. The CDC estimates that orchitis occurs in 30 to 40 percent of cases in adult males, but it only rarely causes sterility. Other potential complications listed by the CDC include mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue) in nearly a third of infected women and swelling in the brain tissues (non-infectious meningitis) in about 10 percent of cases. Deafness can also be a complication but is extremely rare, occurring in one of 20,000 cases, and encephalitis is even rarer, occurring in fewer than two of 100,000 cases.

Source: Forbes