Mumps is spreading rapidly across the U.S, especially college campuses. That’s nothing to take lightly—here are six things you need to know about this preventable illness.
Mumps is more contagious than ebola.
Each person infected with mumps will infect four to seven other people in an a vulnerable (meaning: non-vaccinated) community, giving it a reproductive rate between 4 and 7. In the 2014 ebola outbreak in West Africa, the reproductive rate was between 1.5 and 2.5—making mumps even more infectious than that dreaded disease.
You can spread mumps without having symptoms.
Just because you don’t have the classic signs and symptoms of the mumps doesn't mean you won’t spread it others. About two out of five people infected with mumps show no symptoms, and yet can still unknowingly spread it to others in their community.
While mumps is typically not serious, it can cause major issues like deafness.
Mumps is typically mild. Parotitis (inflammation of the parotid glands that give the look of chipmunk cheeks) is the most notable symptom, and other symptoms include headache, fever, and anorexia. But severe complications can occur, and the disease can lead to serious issues like deafness.
Not everyone can be vaccinated.
Similarly, there are some who can't receive the vaccine because of age (<12 months) or medical reasons (ex. cancer treatment). These individuals rely on the rest of us to protect them -- especially when the reason they can't receive the vaccine also means they would be more vulnerable to hospitalization or death if they were to get infected. Because of this, we as a community need to be even more vigilant about immunizing ourselves: to protect those who can't protect themselves.
... And not everyone who has been vaccinated will be fully protected.
It’s true that most people who have received mumps in the recent outbreaks have been vaccinated, but that’s because the vast majority of Americans have been vaccinated for decades now. There are two major ways a vaccinated person can fail to build an immunity: some vaccines get damaged through improper handling, and some bodies are simply less prone to develop an immunity than others. But just because the vaccine doesn't provide full protection for 100% of recipients doesn't mean it's not worth getting. On the contrary ...
Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and community from the mumps.
Vaccines have reduced mumps by 99%. However, that only works if we all do our part: 75-86% of a community needs to be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to be achieved. If you’re not sure of your vaccination status, talk to your doctor.
What questions do you have about the mumps? Let us know in the comments below!