CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Three people on the campus of the College of Charleston have tested positive for the mumps virus, the school confirmed Monday.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control labeled the situation as an outbreak, according to CofC spokesman Ron Menchaca.
Cof C student Sarai Ostorga says she had a lot questions when she first heard about the outbreak.
“I was really surprised, I’m not even going to lie, I was just like I don’t know how it occurred, who got it, how many people had it, I was very concerned how it happened,” Ostorga said.
DHEC says so far this year South Carolina has had 13 confirmed or probable mumps cases. There was one other outbreak reported at a high school earlier this year.
“Since the first case was confirmed on Sept. 17, College health officials and student affairs staff have been working around the clock to provide support to all affected individuals in each of these cases, including notifying classmates, roommates, friends, colleagues and others who may have come into contact with the individuals who tested positive,” he said in a release.
The college is also working with DHEC and MUSC to stop the spread of the virus on campus.
The three people who tested positive have been isolated and college health officials have been verifying student immunization records to identify and contact those who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus.
DHEC says the best way to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated.
CofC will conduct a vaccination clinic on campus this week to provide high-risk individuals with access to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.
CofC student Stuart Dowell was surprised.
“It’s ridiculous, an outbreak of the mumps happened at all in general especially here considering we have to have all of our vaccinations up to date here," Dowell said.
In South Carolina, state regulations allow for colleges and universities to set their own policies for immunization requirements. The College has an established pre-matriculation immunization policy that is consistent with the recommendations of the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Students can be granted an immunization waiver based on medical or religious reasons. But in the event of certain communicable disease emergencies, these exempted individuals can be excluded from campus activities in order to protect the health and welfare of the campus community.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection that may result in parotitis, which causes swelling in the cheek and jaw area below the ear. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms and often do not know they have the disease. Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks. Mumps can occasionally cause complications including deafness, inflammation of the testicles, brain, tissue covering the brain, ovaries, and breasts. Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat.
CofC student Genesis Chavez Gonzalez is taking preventative measures.
“So now it’s like, I got to be cautious," Gonzalez said. "I didn’t bring my Starbucks cup today because I was scared if something would happen, like a cough or something.”
According to DHEC, a single dose of vaccine is estimated to be 78% effective at preventing mumps, while two doses are about 88% effective. Some individuals who have been vaccinated can still get the mumps. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for all children. The MMR vaccine is required for entry for all students in 5K through 12 grade and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of MMR vaccine for all college students.
To prevent the spread of the mumps virus, individuals are advised to:
- Wash their hands frequently.
- Do not to share food, beverages, eating utensils or cigarettes.
- Cover their nose and mouth when they cough and sneeze.
- Avoid close contact with ill individuals.