More than 100 confirmed or probable cases of mumps have been diagnosed at Temple University as an outbreak that began with just a few cases in February continues to spread across the Philadelphia campus.
City Department of Health officials believe that the close quarters in which college students live has accelerated the spread of the disease, and they expect more cases to be diagnosed. Although mumps and other highly contagious viral diseases such as measles have largely been eradicated in the United States, there have been sporadic outbreaks in pockets of the country that have been largely attributed to so-called anti-vaxxers, or parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. College students are generally susceptible to outbreaks of all kinds of contagious diseases, including certain strains of meningitis and the flu.
The university already held a free vaccination clinic, administering booster shots for mumps to nearly 5,000 students and staffers as of last week. Other students and professors were vaccinated at the campus health center, which is still offering shots, said Ray Betzner, a university spokesman.
Mumps is spread through spit and mucus, so college students who are often packed together in classes and dormitories or who share drinks and food are particularly susceptible, said Susan Even, chairwoman of the American College Health Association’s Vaccine.
The outbreak at Temple is believed to have originated with a person who traveled internationally, said Jim Garrow, city health department spokesman. Garrow did not identify whether the person was a student. Mumps is a common disease in other countries such as in Japan, where people are not routinely vaccinated against it.