Posts Tagged ‘Mumps Outbreak’

Public Health Threats

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
Too Close for Comfort?

Too Close for Comfort?

A mumps outbreak on the campuses of Boston-area universities may upset plans for graduation ceremonies scheduled for later this month. An outbreak that began at Harvard University in March has now escalated to over 40 cases. The University of Massachusetts, Boston University and Tufts University have also reported cases of mumps infection among their students. Mumps is a disease caused by a contagious virus and is more likely to spread in the winter and spring months. The virus can spread quickly among people in close quarters, such as college dorms, by means such as talking, coughing, sneezing or kissing. Swollen cheeks and flu-like symptoms are signs of the virus, but many people spread the virus as they are unaware that they are infected. Mumps is usually prevented by two doses of the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine. Doctors report that ten years after the second dose is administered, the vaccine’s protective benefits decline to 80 to 85 per cent. However, should a vaccinated person become infected, he or she will typically have a milder illness than someone who has not been vaccinated. I had mistakenly believed I had been properly vaccinated, but the error was caught in a timely manner.

Whenever I have to travel for official UN business, I am required to update my medical information. For an extra measure of safety, particularly as some of the areas where I travel for work are unsanitary, I have had a third MMR booster, so I happen to be aware of this. But were it not for my UN work, I would have been medically vulnerable without knowing it! I was unable to produce proof of the second administration of the MMR vaccine when the UN medical office requested it. How many of us can document our childhood vaccines? With outbreaks of previously rare viruses becoming more commonplace, and with a politically-correct anti-vaccine movement gaining traction, I am giving more thought to policies for health protection. This is particularly important for businesses whose employees work in areas of close contact with others. In my case, I am on a university campus at least once a week. I have seen people in developing countries out and about in public while wearing surgical masks for protection. I am trying to imagine this scenario at a graduation ceremony. Let’s learn from this experience and give some thought to keeping our employees safe and healthy. For more information, see the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.