It’s been several months since mumps was last reported on the campus of Harvard University and after a lull, it appears to have returned to the Cambridge, MA higher learning institution.
During the Spring, Harvard recorded an outbreak that totaled in more than 60 cases, which started in February. According to Harvard University Health Services Director, Dr. Paul J. Barreira, four cases have been confirmed.
This comes just days after nine mumps cases were reported at nearby Tufts University in Medford.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 221 mumps cases have been reported in Massachusetts through Nov. 12, one of six states that have recorded more than 100 cases.
Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks. Items used by an infected person, such as cups or soft drink cans, can also be contaminated with the virus, which may spread to others if those items are shared.
Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12-25 days after infection. It is usually a mild disease, but can occasionally cause serious complications.
The most common complication is inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty; rarely does this lead to fertility problems.
Other rare complications include inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord(encephalitis/meningitis), inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis) and/or breasts (mastitis) in females who have reached puberty and deafness.
The best way to prevent mumps is to be vaccinated with at least two doses of the MMR vaccine. Those born before 1957 are considered to be immune to mumps due to the high rate of infection before that time. Some people who have been vaccinated may still contract mumps, because two doses of vaccine are considered around 80 percent effective.