Lump, bumps, and mumps: Mumps outbreak at USD prompts free MMR vaccine

Brooklyn Dippo | News Editor

Looming in the wake of cold and flu season on campus is a disease that was almost eradicated in the United States: mumps. Mumps is no longer common because of required vaccinations but the disease is making a comeback as vaccination rates fall.

A confirmed mumps outbreak at the University of San Diego has the community at high risk for contracting the disease. USD has responded to the outbreak with free vaccination clinics to provide students with a third dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

USD students get free mumps vaccinations during dead hours on Tuesday following multiple confirmed cases of the disease on campus.

USD students get free mumps vaccinations during dead hours on Tuesday following multiple confirmed cases of the disease on campus.

Mumps is a contagious disease that gets its name from making salivary glands swell into such large lumps that people with the disease mumble their words. It is caused by a virus and usually starts with flu-like symptoms after a week of contraction. In rare cases, mumps can cause sudden and permanent deafness or meningitis.

The first case of mumps at USD was confirmed on March 1. By March 11 the city stepped in, following the confirmation of a second case and several more suspected cases of mumps. The County of San Diego, Public Health Services, released a statement making an official recommendation that the community get vaccinated to slow and minimize the outbreak.

“The County of San Diego, Public Health Services, is recommending that all undergraduate students and residential staff receive an additional dose of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine regardless of prior MMR vaccination history,” the statement read.

USD held its first free vaccine clinic on Tuesday and will be holding a second one in UC Forum C on Thursday, March 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pamela Sikes, the Director of the Student Health Center, explained that a third shot can boost immunity and that getting the vaccine will help protect people beyond our campus community.

“This is strongly recommended even if you’ve already been immunized,” Sikes said. “Immunity can wane and during outbreaks a third vaccine can help prevent continued spread. This not only protects our USD community, but this protects those you will be in contact with during Spring Break. This is especially important for protecting babies and ill friends and family.”

Junior Jessi Pettenuzzo plans on getting the MMR booster vaccine now that it is being offered for free.

“It’s great that USD is offering the vaccine,” Pettenuzzo said. “I’m definitely getting it. I mean, why would I chance getting sick when it can be prevented for free?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases of mumps have decreased by more than 99 percent since the pre-vaccine era. The rise of outbreaks in recent years correlates with an increase in parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Between 2008 and 2009 MMR vaccinations fell nearly three percent across the nation down to 90.6 percent according to the CDC. In order for a population to be safe from a disease with herd immunity, immunization rates must at 94 percent.

Many parents who refuse to vaccinate their children cite a now debunked study that was published in the British Medical Journal in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. The paper has since been retracted by the journal after finding that the researcher, former doctor Andrew Wakefield, who was stripped of his medical license in May of 2010, falsified the data.

Still there are some students who don’t want to be vaccinated.

Senior Chloe Spilotro, who has already received the mandated MMR immunizations, believes that a third dose is unnecessary for her health.

“I already had the MMR, as most schools mandate, plus a booster,” Spilotro said. “So I don’t think I need another just because someone else got [mumps]. I don’t have to overcompensate on myself because someone else’s immune system failed.”

If a majority of the USD student body does get a booster shot, the mumps outbreak should be over shortly. Students with symptoms of mumps are urged to go to the Student Health Center to be tested and to get treatment for symptom relief.