Mumps Alert For College Campuses This Fall

Aug 20, 2013, 2:20 PM

Following several outbreaks of mumps cases on college and university campuses this past spring, the American College Health Association (ACHA) recently issued an alert urging institutes of higher education to keep mumps on their radar and require proof of complete mumps vaccination coverage for all students, which means having received two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) usually between 12 to 15 months and then again between the ages of 4 and 6.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to half of people who contract mumps show very mild to no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms of mumps that may appear after 12 to 18 days of incubation include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears

While mumps is usually a mild disease in children, contracting mumps after puberty can have adverse effects on both the male and female reproductive systems and in some cases can affect the central nervous system.

According to the chair of ACHA’s Vaccine Preventable Diseases Committee, Susan Even, MD, most colleges and universities already require two doses of the MMR vaccine for enrolled students. Even is also the executive director of the student health center at the University of Missouri, where she says the health center participates in new student orientation. Incoming students who are behind on immunizations including the full course of MMR are directed to come in to the health center and receive the appropriate boosters, which they can charge to their campus account.

Campus medical experts stay vigilant on new infectious disease alerts and making sure students are up to date on vaccines because the close quarters students live in can easily and quickly spread infectious diseases such as mumps and the flu. Most colleges will start flu vaccine campaigns as soon as doses arrive on campus, which is often in early September, and use social media, among other means, to haul collegians in for the shots.

To help keep college health officials up to date, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) launched National Immunization Awareness Month a few weeks ago. Each week of National Immunization Awareness Month is targeted to a different demographic that can benefit from making sure their immunizations are up to date. One week was focused specifically on vaccinations in the college and university setting. To assist in spreading the importance of immunizations, NPHIC has created an online marketing toolkit colleges can deploy for student, which includes a strong social media campaign to help raise awareness on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter as students head off to the fall semester.

The hashtag #NIAM13 has been used by many organizations across Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to share facts, stories and recommendations regarding immunization for a wide variety of preventable diseases.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.