Mumps Outbreak at Ohio State

Mumps cases at Ohio State University grow as health officials investigate the infections

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many Americans get the mumps vaccine as a child, then almost forget that the virus exists. But a recent outbreak on a college campus has drawn attention back to mumps in the US.

An outbreak of mumps has been reported among members of The Ohio State University community.

The outbreak is still under investigation, and health officials are recommending that the community take steps to prevent the spread of disease.

"Try to avoid close contact with others when you are ill."

According to Reuters News, 28 cases of mumps have now been identified at The Ohio State University.

The university, which is located in Columbus, Ohio, returned from spring break this week, leading to some concern that the case numbers will grow as students gather back on campus. Five of the 28 cases have been reported since Monday.

Mumps, which is caused by the mumps virus, is a contagious condition that can lead to symptoms like fever, headache, fatigue and swelling of the salivary glands, which are located below the ears. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mumps can sometimes lead to serious complications, including inflammation of the brain, testicles or ovaries.

The mumps virus is spread through droplets of saliva or mucus, which can move through the air, such as when an infected person coughs, or be spread through contact with surfaces or items, like drinking cups.

The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine protects against the virus and is routinely given in two doses in the US.

"Two doses of the vaccine are more effective against mumps than one dose and prevent most, but not all, cases of mumps and mumps complications," explained CDC.

According to Reuters, it has been reported that all but one of the known mumps patients at The Ohio State University received at least one MMR vaccine dose.

CDC explained that mumps transmission can begin before any salivary gland swelling occurs, and can continue for up to five days after swelling starts. However, it can take a while after the infection first happens for symptoms to develop. This gap, called the incubation period, can range anywhere from 12 to 25 days, said CDC.

In an interview with Reuters, Columbus Public Health spokesman Jose Rodriguez noted that this fact may not help the case count at The Ohio State University.

"The possibility is always there for more cases," said Rodriguez. "With the long incubation period mumps has, it is a recipe for a prolonged outbreak."

CDC recommended a number of steps to help limit the spread of mumps and other illnesses, including washing hands often with soap and water and not sharing eating or drinking utensils.

"Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue in the trash can," said CDC. "If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands."

Review Date: 
March 19, 2014
Last Updated:
March 20, 2014