Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) has reported Monday that the number of mumps cases on campus has risen to 40, up from 34 confirmed cases reported last Friday.

The total cases is more than double what was reported one month ago.

Stethoscope Public domain image/Darnyi Zsóka
Public domain image/Darnyi Zsóka

Director, HUHS, Paul J. Barreira, M.D. wrote in an Apr 22 email that many others have presented with definite clinical signs of mumps.

“We all have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of the virus by contacting Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) with any suspected cases”, Barreira notes.

“Under the direction of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Cambridge Public Health Department, we advise you to refrain from public activities, avoid travel and public transportation, and contact HUHS at 617-495-5711 to be evaluated if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of mumps—facial swelling, jaw pain, ear ache, or testicular swelling—or if you think you may have been exposed, even if you have been vaccinated.”

The school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson reports that school officials worry that a recent spike in the number of confirmed cases could adversely affect Commencement. “I’m actually more concerned now than I was during any time of the outbreak, I have to say,” Barreira said. “I’m desperate, I’m desperate to get students to take seriously that they shouldn’t be infecting one another.”

“The concern is that if there’s a spike this week, that means those students expose others, so now we’re looking at a potential serious interruption to Commencement for students,” Barreira said. “Students will get infected, and then go into isolation.”

Mumps is an acute viral disease characterized by fever, swelling, and tenderness of one or more salivary glands. Mumps is not common in the United States due to robust vaccination programs. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against mumps, though follow-up doses are sometimes needed.

Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and sends the mumps virus into the air. The virus can land in other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers to their mouth or nose after handling an infected surface.

Mumps is generally transmitted from about 3 days before symptoms appear to about 5 days after, although the virus has been isolated from saliva as early as 7 days before to as late as 9 days after the onset of symptoms.