Mumps Strikes Va. Campuses

One Case So Far At JMU; 40 At University Of Richmond

Posted: April 6, 2013

HARRISONBURG — The mumps virus that manifested itself on college campuses in Virginia and neighboring states beginning last month has found its way to James Madison University.
The school confirmed in a press release that one student had a case of the mumps, a contagious viral infection that mostly affects the salivary glands, and was being treated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to half the people infected with the virus have mild or no symptoms. Mumps cause flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches and tiredness.
The school joins a list of others across the state that have seen the virus come to campus, including the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Loyola University Maryland, according to media reports.
University of Richmond leads the schools with approximately 40 confirmed and suspected mumps cases, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Since the beginning of March, the Virginia Department of Health reported 66 cases of mumps that were confirmed or suspected in the state.
The virus thrives on college and university campuses, according to Dr. Doug Larsen, director of the Central Shenandoah Health District, partly because of the high number of people living in close living quarters or sharing drinks or lip balm — one of the ways mumps is spread.
It also spreads through coughs and sneezes.
Virginia is experiencing more cases than normal so far this year, he said, but that happens from time to time.
“We always have a few throughout each season and that’s pretty common,” he said. “To say [why] we’re having more this time it’s just a lot of conjecture. …  Still the numbers are low compared to previous years.”
Larsen said most people who get the mumps were treated with a vaccine when they were younger.
“What this tells us is that there may be a waning of immunity,” he said, but added that the vaccine was still helpful in reducing the severity of the virus.
And, he said, in most cases it prevents it altogether.
“We still say vaccines are the best way of preventing infections,” he said. “If you think of the millions and millions of people [who were vaccinated], to see only this small number … means it has worked pretty well.”
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