Mumps outbreak spreads in Philadelphia region

On March 21 2019, Vice President of Student Affairs at West Chester University Zebulun R. Davenport sent out an email to inform faculty and students of a confirmed case of mumps in a non-resident student.  The email disclosed the current actions being taken to address the case:

“The Chester County Health Department (CCHD) is working closely with WCU’s Student Health Services and advising protocol. Today, the CCHD will contact roommates of the student at the off-campus location to advise them on the recommended booster for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.”

The email also mentions the non-resident student’s confirmed case had presented itself after visiting Temple University.

According to NBC, Temple University has been a part of the outbreak in Philadelphia, and as of Wednesday, March 24, the university has had 106 reported student cases of the mumps this year. Temple University as a result has begun issuing free booster shots at the university for students. Cases have also been reported at Drexel University and Abington Senior High School.

As of…March 24 [Temple University] has had 106 reported student cases of the mumps this year.

While several hundred cases have been reported in various areas this year, this is not the first time we have seen an outbreak in mumps cases since vaccinations began in the 1960s.  Even with the rise and fall of outbreaks, the number of cases we see in present day are not nearly as high as they were prior to the vaccination in the 1960s.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, about 186,000 cases were reported each year, but the actual number of cases were much higher due to under reporting…since the two MMR-dose vaccination program was introduced in 1989, U.S mumps cases have decreased more than 99 percent.”

While a reduction in cases has been reported since vaccination began, the CDC also explains that since 2006, outbreaks seem to occur about every five years.

On a separate but related note, New York has been dealing with an outbreak of the measles. On March 26, 2019 Rockland County, New York declared a state of emergency and asked all unvaccinated people to refrain from public areas until vaccinated. Though its enforcement methods remain undocumented at present, the county has noted that  they will not be patrolling for the unvaccinated. Instead, they’ll focus more on  urging the public to vaccinate themselves.

While there is no direct statement addressing the sole cause of the outbreaks of mumps or measles, here is what we do know about the mumps according to the CDC:

Those who are already vaccinated with the double dose of MMR have an 88 percent reduction risk, but boosters are sometimes recommended for those who may be of higher risk (usually those who have had contact with someone who has the mumps). High vaccination coverage has been significantly studied and proven to help limit the size, duration and spread of the mumps outbreaks.

Megan McCarthy is a fourth year English major with a minor in digital humanities.

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