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Important information about the spread of mumps

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dear Members of the Appalachian Community,

On May 11, a new case of mumps was confirmed in an Appalachian State University student, bringing the total number of mumps cases in Watauga County to four, and the total number of cases in Appalachian students to three.

The individual diagnosed with the virus is being treated, per guidelines established by the State of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control, and is fully cooperating in following isolation instructions.

While the number of cases may seem small, it is important to remember that mumps is a contagious disease for which there is no treatment, and it can cause long-term health problems. As you travel home or to other locations during the summer months, please exercise caution and be vigilant about caring for yourself and others.

Symptoms of mumps are similar to those of other illnesses, like cold and flu. The virus is spread through close contact, like kissing, drinking after someone else, coughing or sneezing. If you are not feeling well, do not engage in social activity, share drinks, towels, clothing or other items with anyone.

Appalachian officials have been working in close coordination with state and county health officials since the first case of mumps was identified as a possibility. They have interviewed ill students about their activities during their periods of contagion, identified and sought out anyone who has come into contact with the ill students, reviewed their immunization records, immunized them if necessary and made sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms of mumps.

We remain on heightened alert for anyone with signs and symptoms compatible with mumps.

This proactive approach has helped reduce the spread of mumps. We need your vigilance to continue to contain the disease.

Because of the recent increase in nationwide physician-reported mumps cases, AppHealthCare has recommended a heightened awareness of the possible need for mumps testing for patients who present with symptoms consistent with mumps. It is important, however, to remember that symptoms of mumps are similar to symptoms of other illnesses, like cold and flu.

Recent confirmed cases of mumps among Appalachian State University and Caldwell Community College students in Watauga County have generated questions about MMR immunization requirements for college students. The information below is being shared with the public to provide additional information about MMR immunization requirements and to assist in preventing the spread of mumps. Please review it carefully.

We wish you a healthy and safe summer.

Best wishes,

Beth Lovette
Health Director
AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department)

Dr. Robert Ellison
Director of Student Health Services
Appalachian State University

Important information about MMR immunization requirements for students at Appalachian State University and Caldwell Community College

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend two doses of the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The recommended two doses of the vaccine provide approximately 88 percent protection against infection. A single dose of the vaccine provides approximately 78 percent protection.

Because full immunization is the best way to prevent large-scale outbreaks in any population, state and county health officials are - and will continue to - emphasize the importance of being fully immunized.

North Carolina state law requires two immunization vaccinations before enrolling in school, college or university for the first time. There are, however exceptions, including religious and medical exemptions.

All incoming Appalachian State University students are required to submit immunization records prior to enrollment. Appalachian State is required to submit an immunization report to the North Carolina Department of Public Health within 60 days of the beginning of each school year. As a non-residential college, Caldwell Community College (CCC&TI) is subject to different requirements, and does not have a student health services branch.

Because there are a number of exceptions to the state immunization requirements, state and local health officials advise Appalachian State and CCC&TI students, faculty and staff to review their immunization records and be sure they are fully immunized against mumps.

Additionally, state and local health officials encourage students who have exercised the religious exemption from immunizations to reconsider this decision.

AppHealthCare, the local health department, urges community members and CCC&TI students to check with their primary care physicians about their current immunization records, to ensure they have the recommended vaccinations. Immunizations are available through primary care providers and AppHealthCare, Alleghany: 336-372-5641, Ashe: 336-246-9449 or Watauga: 828-264-4995.

Appalachian State students can access their immunization records at http://medportal.appstate.edu in three easy steps:

  1. Sign in using university user name and password.
  2. Select the “immunization” tab.
  3. Select “immunization history.”

This will allow students to view all immunizations they have submitted to Appalachian and all vaccinations administered by Appalachian’s immunization clinic. Students also have the option to print their records from this screen.

Anyone concerned about symptoms should to contact their primary care providers, urgent care or local hospital.

Those exhibiting any of the symptoms listed below should take precautionary steps to limit contact with others.

Additionally, state and regional health officials strongly encourage everyone to review the information below to assist in preventing the spread of mumps.

What causes mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus.

How does mumps spread?

The mumps virus is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva or through sharing items like cups or utensils with an infected person. The risk of spreading the virus increases the longer and the closer the contact a person has with someone who has mumps. The average incubation period (from exposure to onset of illness) for mumps is 16 to 18 days, with a range of 12– 25 days. People with mumps are considered most infectious from two days before through five days after the onset of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Individuals with mumps usually first feel sick with nonspecific symptoms like headache, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever. The most well-known sign of mumps is parotitis, the swelling of the parotid salivary glands, below the ear. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease. There are no medicines to treat mumps, but most people recover completely in a few weeks.

Prevention

Vaccination is the best way to prevent mumps. Two doses of MMR vaccine are approximately 88% effective at preventing the disease; one dose is approximately 78% effective.

MMR vaccine should be administered to persons without evidence of immunity and everyone should be brought up to date with age appropriate vaccination (one or two doses). Although MMR vaccination has not been shown to be effective in preventing mumps in persons already infected, it will prevent infection in those persons who are not yet exposed or infected. Those born before or during 1957 are considered immune based on likely exposure during childhood.

It is important to recognize that mumps can occur in vaccinated people. During mumps outbreaks in highly vaccinated communities, the proportion of cases that occur among people who have been vaccinated may be high. This should not be interpreted as meaning that the vaccine is not effective; people who have not been vaccinated against mumps are much more likely to get mumps than those who have been fully vaccinated. Clinicians should ensure that all healthcare personnel in their offices have presumptive evidence of immunity.

How can I find out if I have been/should be vaccinated?

AppHealthCare, the local health department, urges community members to check with their primary care physician about their current immunization records, to ensure they have the recommended vaccinations. Immunizations are available through primary care providers and AppHealthCare, Alleghany: 336-372-5641, Ashe: 336-246-9449 or Watauga: 828-264-4995.

Appalachian State students can access their immunization records at http://medportal.appstate.edu in three easy steps:

  1. Sign in with your university user name and password.
  2. Select the “immunization” tab.
  3. Select “immunization history.”

This will allow students to view all immunizations they have submitted to Appalachian and all vaccinations administered by Appalachian’s immunization clinic. They will also have the option to print their records from this screen.

Additional information is available at:

Any further communications related to additional measures to prevent additional cases of mumps in our community will be communicated to the media, as well as posted to http://www.apphealthcare.com.