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Update: Status of Mumps Outbreak on Vanderbilt University Campus

As of March 2017, there have been 10 cases of mumps on the Vanderbilt campus since this semester started in January. Approximately 20 other colleges and universities have also had mumps outbreaks this year, and some of those campuses have reported hundreds of cases. We have been fortunate that the outbreak at Vanderbilt has been small, and our affected students have had very mild symptoms.

Vanderbilt University and the Student Health Center have worked closely with local, state and national public health authorities to manage this situation as it has evolved. Public health authorities have attributed our excellent containment of this outbreak to several factors:

  1. Full compliance with immunization requirements on campus—all students are immunized with two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, except for a few students with approved medical or religious exemptions
  2. Additional MMR boosters for a targeted group of at-risk students who are believed to have come in contact with an infected person
  3. Rapid quarantine of affected students
  4. Email and face-to-face communication with at-risk student groups
  5. Adjustment of social events as necessary

Since up to 30 percent of mumps patients can be contagious but have minimal to no symptoms, it is very difficult to fully contain the spread of the infection on a college campus, even with ongoing precautions. As a result, occasional mumps cases are expected through the end of the semester, but we are hopeful that, as many students disperse for the summer, the spread of mumps will dissipate.

The administration of two MMR shots in childhood protects most people from mumps and is very good protection, but it is not perfect (88 percent effective). Of note, all of our mumps patients received the appropriate two-shot dosage of the MMR vaccine before coming to Vanderbilt. As an added precaution, public health authorities have strongly encouraged a targeted group of students to receive a third MMR vaccine, assuming they have no medical contraindications to the vaccine. These students have been identified by local and state public health authorities during the course of routine investigations to determine others who might have come in contact with ill students. In addition, many of these students have been identified because of known university social and housing affiliations on campus. These students have been contacted and many have heeded the advice to receive the additional MMR vaccine.

Students can receive the vaccine at the Student Health Center on a walk-in basis—no appointment is needed. The Student Health Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. for MMR vaccine administration. For students enrolled on the Gallagher Health Insurance plan, there is no cost for the vaccine at the Student Health Center. For those enrolled on private insurance, the price is $70 to receive it at Student Health. The Student Health Clinic does not bill private insurance companies but can provide receipts for those who wish to pay the $70 and file their own insurance claims. Students can also receive the vaccine at local walk-in clinics in Nashville, including the CVS Minute Clinic on 21st Avenue South or the Vanderbilt Walk-In Clinic in Belle Meade at 4534 Harding Pike. These retail facilities should be able to bill your private insurance directly.

How can parents help Vanderbilt contain this outbreak?

  1. Remind your student that mumps is spread just like other common viruses—through saliva or mucous from the mouth, nose or throat. As early as two days before any symptoms appear, an infected person can transmit the infection by coughing, sneezing, sharing items such as cups or beverages, intimate contact or by touching surfaces with unwashed hands. Students can protect themselves by not sharing drinks or eating utensils and by washing their hands frequently.
  2. Students who become ill and develop swollen or painful salivary glands under the ears or jaw, or on the cheeks, should schedule an appointment with the Student Health Center by calling (615) 322-2427. The Student Health Center has someone on call for urgent medical concerns that arise outside of clinic hours.
  3. Encourage your student to be compliant with the public health authority mandates for isolation. While we know isolation can be frustrating for affected students, this approach is an important part of the containment measures. Keep in mind that most vaccinated students have very mild illnesses, but are still contagious to the community at large. Vulnerable members of our community, such as chronically ill students, faculty and staff, can have significant negative consequences of mumps infection. For that reason we encourage all students with mumps to be thoughtful members of the community so that others can be protected from infection.
  4. If your student has received an email suggesting that they receive an additional MMR vaccine, please encourage your student to heed this advice.

To learn more, read the FAQs posted to the Student Health website.

Students with questions or concerns about their individual health concerns can message their health care providers at Student Health using www.myhealthatvanderbilt.com. General questions or concerns from students or parents can be sent to the Student Health email at studenthealth@vanderbilt.edu.