Mumps: Coming to a campus near you?

College students may be more at risk for the contagious virus. Health officials urge vaccination — not once, but twice.

Local cases of mumps may have people wondering why the virus seems to be targeting college students.

Spread through saliva or mucus, mumps can be transmitted though coughing, sneezing and shared cups and eating utensils, or by touching certain objects with unwashed hands.

Sounds just like life in a college dorm.

“This virus has a perfect storm for an epidemic,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare. “College students typically live in close quarters and have close contact with other students, and mumps is very contagious.”

Mumps typically begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite, which is followed by the swelling of salivary glands.

On March 1, the University of Louisville confirmed that a student in affiliated housing was diagnosed with an active case of mumps. Indiana University in Bloomington has reported eight cases of mumps, and three students at University of Kentucky tested positive in late February.

Health officials recommend two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR, to protect against the outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one dose is about 78 percent effective. That increases to 88 percent with a second dose.

Health officials urge all parents and students to get vaccinated if they are unsure if they have received both doses.

“The vaccine may not be 100 percent effective in every case, but it’s a great way to defend against it,” Dr. Schulz said.

So what else can people do to protect themselves from catching the mumps?

Everyone plays a part in preventing contagious diseases, according to Dr. Schulz. The most important: Wash your hands, cover your cough and minimize contact with sick friends, family and co-workers.

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