Harvard University have admitted that a recent outbreak of mumps occurred in students who were already vaccinated against the disease.
The University have sent out an urgent appeal to students, asking them to take “better precautions against infecting each other with mumps”.
Authorities at Harvard have admitted in a letter to students that being vaccinated against mumps does not give them immunity:
[T]hose who have been vaccinated for mumps—though much less likely to contract the virus—can still be infected.
By the way, the letter – from Paul J. Barreira, MD, Director: Harvard University Health Services and the Henry K. Oliver Professor of Hygiene – also noted another medical truth: That self-immunization is much more effective than a vaccine.
Individuals who have previously had mumps are considered immune to the virus.
Much has changed since that initial outbreak. By March, school and local health officials reported that mumps had spread to 16 students, despite the fact that all of them “were fully immunized against the mumps prior to contracting the disease.”
Now, at least 40 people are sick with mumps, and that’s got the school’s chief health official worried.
“I’m actually more concerned now than I was during any time of the outbreak,” Barreira told The Harvard Crimson. “I’m desperate to get students to take seriously that they shouldn’t be infecting one another.”
In fact, the disease is spreading so rapidly that it may even affect the university’s May 26 commencement, Barreira added.
“If there’s a spike this week, that means those students expose others, so now we’re looking at a potential serious interruption to commencement for students,” he told the student newspaper. “Students will get infected and then go into isolation.”
Mumps is a viral infection that affects the salivary glands, and while it is generally considered rare, it certainly is becoming more common on the campus of an Ivy League school filled with young adults from well-to-do families. If mumps can strike and flourish there, it can strike and flourish anywhere.
Series of outbreaks
There have been additional outbreaks at other college campuses. Between 2011 and 2013, there were outbreaks on campuses in California, Virginia and Maryland, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
There were even larger outbreaks from 2009 to 2010, the CDC noted:
— One multi-year outbreak involved about 3,000 people and mostly affected high school-aged students who were part of a close-knit religious community in New York City and attended schools in which they had very close contact. The outbreak started when an infected student in this religious community returned from the United Kingdom where a large mumps outbreak was occurring.
— The second outbreak involved about 500 people, mostly school-aged children, in the U.S. Territory of Guam.
But the most serious recent outbreak occurred in 2006, the CDC noted:
In 2006, the United States experienced a multi-state mumps outbreak involving more than 6,500 reported cases. This resurgence predominantly affected college-aged students living in the Midwest, with outbreaks occurring on many different Midwestern college campuses.