As classes resume, Temple University health officials are attempting to stop the spread of the mumps after an outbreak began before Spring Break.
The university is now looking to require incoming students to receive the MMR vaccine before enrolling, Denys added.
“This isn’t something to get panicked or very worried over, but it is something to be aware of,” said Mark Denys, the director of Student and Employee Health Services.
There are 10 confirmed Temple-related mumps cases since Feb. 28, when Temple first alerted the university community about the outbreak. It is not clear whether the confirmed cases include faculty or staff members.
Five of the other Temple-related cases are probable, and one case was found to be negative, university spokesperson Chris Vito wrote in an email to The Temple News on Monday. A case classifies as probable when the individual experiences swollen glands for at least two days and can be linked to another probable or determined case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More cases off Main Campus may occur because students traveled during spring break, Denys said. Two probable mumps cases in Montgomery County were linked to Temple’s outbreak as of Friday. There are four other suspected cases, but it is unclear if these cases are linked to Temple, said John Corcoran, the director of Montgomery County’s communications office.
Temple is looking to require the incoming freshman class to have the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, Denys said Monday. It protects against the mumps, a contagious virus that is transmitted through the mouth, nose and throat. Symptoms include swelling in the face and jaw, fever, headache and loss of appetite.
Denys said Temple has remained in contact with local public health departments to coordinate its response. All confirmed cases are automatically shared with the CDC, he added.
He’s never seen an outbreak of an infectious disease at Temple during his 14 years here, before now. Most of his staff has never treated the mumps before.
As of Feb. 28, 151 mumps cases were reported in the United States in 2019, according to the CDC.
“Student Health is more adept in dealing with these things than most primary care doctors because we do see so many students and we have a more public health point of view than most urgent cares or even primary care doctors at home,” Denys said. “It’s just something we do.”
Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after someone is infected, according to the CDC.
Someone with mumps is considered contagious two days before their face swells, through five after, according to a university release. It’s recommended that people with mumps isolate themselves so they’re less likely to infect other people.
Student Health has not identified “patient zero,” or the individual who initially developed mumps and passed it on to others, Denys said.
Diseases have a high likelihood of spreading among close-knit groups like sports teams and Greek life organizations, according to the CDC.
Denys said on Thursday some members of Temple’s Greek life community were affected by the mumps, but Temple has not yet found any patterns to suggest certain on-campus communities were particularly affected by the outbreak.
“There are also many that have no connections to Greek life at all,” Denys added.
These diseases can spread easily in environments that are high-contact, like college campuses, according to the CDC. The CDC reported 150 outbreaks, totaling 9,200 cases, in similar settings from January 2016 to June 2017.
Hundreds of college students have been affected by mumps outbreaks on campuses across the country in the last few years. There were at least 51 confirmed cases of mumps at Syracuse University in 2017, and about 280 cases were confirmed or found probable at four universities in Indiana between February and April 2016.
The university has not identified a case where the affected person didn’t receive their MMR vaccinations, Denys said.
Most public K-12 schools require students to be vaccinated against diseases like mumps, but some religious exemptions exist.
It’s widely recommended that people receive two shots of the MMR vaccine by the time they’re 6 years old, said LJ Tan, the chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition. The IAC works with the CDC to educate health care professionals about vaccines and inform policy.
Medical professionals recommend a third shot when outbreaks occur, Tan added. Over time, some people’s immunity decreases and this can make them more susceptible to mumps and other infectious diseases, although it’s unclear why this happens, he said.
“[Vaccines] wouldn’t have prevented most of these because the students who have gotten the mumps have had the vaccine,” Denys added. “So it wouldn’t have changed.”
Temple encouraged students, faculty and employees to get their third booster shot or vaccination if they’ve had close contact with someone with symptoms, in emails sent to the university community on Feb. 28 and March 4.
Because of the MMR vaccine, “these outbreaks tend to be more controlled, tend to be limited in size and duration,” Tan said.
Temple is prepared to set up vaccination clinics if more people are affected, Denys said. The clinics would be similar to its flu shot clinics held in the fall, which can reach thousands of people at the university, he added.
“We already have a plan, and if we do have to do that and the demand is such, we can do that,” he added.