Stephanie Gunn, Ashley Larsen, Danielle McDermott, and Taryn Velazquez, students in Dr. Michael Dickman’s Microbiology class, have been examining the recent Mumps outbreak at local Philadelphia and Bucks County schools.
Mumps, an airborne virus that spreads rapidly from the respiratory tract to the parotid glands, causes both cheeks to swell visibly, with the possibility of entering the cerebrospinal fluid and spreading to the brain, pancreas, and gonads.
According to the Communicable Disease Center, in order to prevent Mumps, Measles, and Rubella, all children aged 12-15 months should receive an initial Prophylactic MMR vaccine followed by a second dose at 4-6 years of age.
“Currently, there is a mini-epidemic of Mumps taking place in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties,” said Gunn, a sophomore Nursing major. “The most notable and well publicized outbreak occurred at Temple University. Our group discovered these Index Cases of Mumps before its rapid spread and mentioned it to Dr. Dickman. Suddenly clusters of Mumps cases were reported at Drexel University, West Chester University, and at Pennsbury High School in Bucks County.”
The students also learned about Waning Immunity, meaning that the inoculation received as children is losing its potency.
“Since children received their last dose of MMR at age 4-6 years old, this makes many of them again susceptible to the Mumps when they enter school,” Gunn said. “Some students, for one reason or another, are never vaccinated during the pediatric period. Therefore, 18-20-year olds should be re-vaccinated with a third dose of MMR to prevent the occurrence of Mumps.”
The lessons on viruses that were all but eliminated has helped these future nursing and biology professionals for various careers in the healthcare industry.
“The best way to protect yourself from Mumps and Measles is to receive the MMR vaccine in a timely fashion,” said Velazquez, a senior Neuroscience major. “Both diseases can be easily spread through coughing and sneezing. Therefore, consistently washing your hands and using the correct cough etiquette are additional ways to protect yourself from developing Mumps.”