Local health officials say there is no evidence that the mumps outbreak at Ohio State University has spread to the Dayton area or surrounding counties.
No cases have been confirmed in the area since 2010, when one case was confirmed, according to officials at the Montgomery County and Clark County health departments. Previously, one case was confirmed locally in 2007 and another in 2008.
Still, experts advise caution, especially among college students living in dormitories and others living or working in close quarters, because the airborne disease is highly contagious. Victims often show no signs of symptoms, which include fever, headache, and swelling of the salivary glands and cheeks.
“About one-third of victims are asymptomatic and show no symptoms at all,” said Gabe Jones, an epidemiologist at the Clark County Combined Health District. “They could possibly be spreading the virus without even knowing it.”
In addition to breathing it in, people can also catch the mumps by touching a surface that has been coughed or sneezed on by an infected person, then touching their own mouth or nose, Jones said. While mumps rarely result in death, they can lead to irritation and swelling of the brain and spinal cord and, in extreme cases, permanent deafness.
The best way to prevent the disease is to stay up to date on vaccinations, said Dr. Thomas Herchline, medical director at Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County.
The mumps vaccine usually is given in two stages as a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine with the first given between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years of age. They have been required in children who enroll in Ohio grade schools since 1986.
“Unfortunately, there are people that just don’t get all the recommended vaccines for whatever reason,” Herchline said. “And even if you’ve had both your shots, it’s not a guarantee that you couldn’t get mumps.”
Compounding the problem on some college campuses is the presence of a large number of international students who may not be subject to the same vaccine requirements as U.S. students.
“That’s a relatively recent change being made internationally, to go from one dose to two doses” of the mumps vaccine, Herchline said.
Infectious-disease experts say under-vaccination is leading to more outbreaks of diseases that could have long been eradicated.
The number of mumps cases at Ohio State has nearly doubled in the past week, rising to 40 at the beginning of this week as university and Columbus Public Health officials continue to investigate connections and ways to contain the outbreak.
Columbus typically has one case of mumps each year.
Despite worries that the mumps outbreak could spread beyond Ohio State, each case outside of campus so far has been linked to the university.