News of a mumps outbreak localized around the Ohio State University has had medical professionals scratching their heads, with at least 28 cases confirmed and around 40 estimated altogether. Students, staff, and relatives of students all fall under this umbrella, with the highly contagious disease largely dormant thanks to the development of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
With measles also making an unwelcome resurgence, doctors and public health officials believe that the culprit may be the growing anti-vaccination trend. Neither the state of Ohio nor the university require compulsory MMR vaccinations, though it remains unknown if the infected parties were vaccinated or not.
Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious-disease specialist at OhioHealth, commented to the Columbus Dispatch."We do have in our country an anti-vaccine movement with really not a lot of science behind it," he said. "The whole vaccine linkage to autism has been completely refuted."
The mumps spread via respiratory secretions, such as droplets from sneezing or saliva from an infected person shared via food and drink. It typically takes some time - around six days - for symptoms to manifest, meaning that a patient infected with the mumps can experience no symptoms and therefore continue with virus-spreading behaviors unknowingly. The college campus environ is the ideal incubator for the disease, with several students living together in highly- populated dorm environments and spending time in classes and social situations together.
Columbus Public Health spokesman Jose Rodriguez spoke directly to the Ohio State student newspaper The Lantern, dispensing advice to students at risk of the virus. "If you're sick, you need to be isolated," said Rodriguez. "You need to wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and especially stay home if you're sick... Don't share personal utensils, cigarettes, drinks."
The symptoms include headaches, fever, loss of appetite and muscle fatigue, though is most commonly characterized with swollen salivary glands, as well as swollen testicles in men. Mumps cannot be treated with common aspirin as it may trigger Reye's syndrome. As a result, sufferers are generally advised to stay at home, rest, and intermittently apply ice to swollen areas for pain relief. Acetaminophen may also assist with pain relief.