The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is investigating a rash of cases of mumps in students at the University of Alabama (UA). The health department was tipped off about the notable number of mumps cases at the university by the campus health center. Both the ADPH and the health center are working to contact people who may have been exposed to the disease.
Students at UA are highly vaccinated against mumps, but the health department says cases of mumps can still occur in vaccinated communities, particularly in close-contact settings such as schools, colleges, and camps. High vaccination coverage helps to limit the size, duration and spread of mumps, the health department said in a press release.
ADHP is recommending that UA students, faculty and staff who are not vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR), immediately receive a second MMR at the Student Health Center, their doctor’s office, or the health department. ADPH strongly recommends students who do not have a record of MMR and choose not to be vaccinated refrain from attending class for 25 days following exposure to mumps.
Mumps is a virus that spreads through saliva and mucus from the mouth, nose or throat. “An infected person can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, talking, sharing items, and touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands,” ADHP cautioned. “Certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, drinking after persons, and sharing lipstick or cigarettes, might increase the spread of the virus.”
People infected with mumps can develop puffy cheeks and swollen jaws, but a third of those infected do not present with these symptoms. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults.