Two Yale students — an undergraduate living on campus and a graduate student living off campus — are suspected to have contracted mumps, Yale Health Director Paul Genecin said in an email to the University community Tuesday morning.
Mumps, a highly contagious respiratory disease, can be spread through direct or indirect contact, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Common symptoms of the disease include puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, along with fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to prevent the onset of mumps. However, since the mumps component of the vaccine is only approximately 88 percent effective, mumps outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated communities, particularly in close-contact settings such schools and colleges, according to the CDC website.
“Over 90 percent of Yale undergraduates have received mumps vaccine, but it is still possible for students or other members of the campus community to contract the disease,” Genecin said in his email.
On Tuesday afternoon, Tarek Ziad ’20 posted in the Facebook group Overheard at Yale identifying himself as one of the students believed to have contracted mumps.
Ziad told the News he visited Yale Health Monday morning because the left side of his face was swollen. He was placed under quarantine at Yale Health following a mumps diagnostic test, the results of which become available on Wednesday.
Ziad said that if the results are positive, he will be required to remain in quarantine for an additional five days.
Ziad noted that he received both doses of the MMR vaccine as a child. He added that in the wake of Genecin’s email, he was disappointed to see “uninformed” comments on social media which inaccurately assumed that the students who contracted mumps were not vaccinated. He said this speculation spurred him to write a Facebook post about his circumstances.
“I was hurt by people saying ‘if you’re not vaccinated, don’t come anywhere near me’ or ‘how dumb could you be to not get vaccinated,’” Ziad said. “I think it’s very easy to say stuff like that if you’re uninformed or you don’t know the person dealing with it. I figured I would post [on Facebook] and say ‘actually you can still get [mumps] even if you have the two vaccines from when you were younger.’”
Details about the condition of the graduate student also suspected of contracting the disease are unknown. Genecin did not respond to a request for comment.
In his email, Genecin stated that people with mumps can spread the infection between two days before and five days after symptoms develop. He added that Yale students who have mumps or mumps-like symptoms will be asked to go home if they live close enough to New Haven or if their parent or guardian is able to pick them up. Students who are not able to go home will be cared for at Yale Health until they are no longer contagious.
Faculty and staff with symptoms are advised to consult their health care providers and refrain from coming to work.
The suspected cases come in the wake of reported mumps outbreaks at several colleges and universities throughout the country, including Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and Harvard University, Genecin said in his email.
According to an April 27, 2016, statement from Sacred Heart University’s Wellness Center and Health Services, the school had eight confirmed cases of mumps, with “several” students first identified as having mumps on March 22. All of the students who contracted the disease had previously received both recommended doses of the MMR vaccine, Sacred Heart University Director of Health Services Anne Mavor said.
“We worked with the state Department of Public Health and the local health department for guidance, as mumps is a reportable illness,” Mavor said. “When students were diagnosed with a suspected case, we followed guidelines for the contagious period. Unfortunately, a person is contagious for a period before the development of symptoms.”
An article published in the Harvard Crimson in September reported that 66 cases of mumps were confirmed by Harvard University Health Services as of late August. Sixty-one of those confirmed cases were recorded at the time of Commencement on May 26. At the time of the article’s publication, there were no active cases of mumps at Harvard.
“We got pretty frequent emails on how to prevent the spread and protect ourselves [from mumps], from student organizations that focus on health, our house deans and the director of Harvard University Health Services,” said Arianna Kahn, a junior at Harvard. “The biggest thing Harvard did was designate one of the on-campus buildings for quarantine.”
While the initial outbreak in the spring was contained, the Crimson recently reported that mumps has resurfaced on the Harvard campus, with four cases confirmed as of Nov. 18, the day before the Yale-Harvard football game. It is unclear whether the new cases are connected to the previous outbreak, which began in February, according to the Crimson. The Crimson reported that as Harvard prepared for “thousands of Yale students to come to Cambridge,” the university was working to contain the disease.
Correction, Nov. 30: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a statement to Harvard University Health Services Director Paul Barreira about Harvard’s efforts in preventing the spread of mumps.