Since November 1, there have been five confirmed cases of mumps among the Bowdoin student body. As of press time, there are no further suspected cases.

All five students with confirmed cases of mumps received both parts of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine (the initial shot at age one, and the booster at age five). The MMR vaccine is 88 percent effective, according to Director of Health Services Dr. Jeffrey Maher.

Maher said every student who contracts mumps must be in isolation for five days after symptoms first arise.

At the start of the outbreak on campus, four Bowdoin students were not immunized against mumps. Three of those students then decided to get the MMR vaccine, while one remains unimmunized.

The three recently immunized students are in “exclusion,” according to Maher.

“Once you’ve been vaccinated it takes eighteen days for the vaccine to take effect,” he said. “They can’t really engage in campus activities including [the] classroom, dining halls, athletics, clubs, but they are not in isolation.”

Students in exclusion are allowed to remain in their apartment or dormitory, living among their roommates. They are working with their professors to manage their coursework.

The unimmunized student is in isolation. The earliest the student can return to campus life is November 25—18 days after the onset of symptoms for the student with the most recent case of mumps. If another case is confirmed, the 18 day period will reset.

The Health Center—which is typically closed on weekends—was open for three hours last Saturday and last Sunday to accomodate students exhibiting mumps symptoms.

Health Services did not send out an email to inform the student body of its  added weekend hours. 

Maher said eight students visited the Health Center and one went to Mid Coast Walk-In Clinic over the weekend, but that none of these students had mumps.

Health Services has been encouraging students who have any symptoms of mumps (body aches, fever, headaches, glandular swelling and loss of appetite) to go to the Health Center instead of the Mid Coast Walk-In Clinic or Mid Coast Hospital to minimize exposure of the virus to the greater Brunswick area.

Additionally, Mid Coast Hospital suspended volunteer assignments of all Bowdoin students to reduce the chances of students introducing the virus to patients.

“We are taking this step because many of our patients have a compromised immune system,” wrote Director of Volunteer Services Shannon Coray in an email to student volunteers. “Given that infected people are contagious before any symptoms appear, we are erring on the side of caution and asking that you not report to your regularly scheduled volunteer shifts.”

When the outbreak first occurred, the Health Center reported the cases of mumps to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).

When institutions like Bowdoin report outbreaks, the Maine CDC assists and provides guidance in the interest of protecting public health, according to Dr. Dora Anne Mills ’82, vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England and former Director of the Maine CDC.

“The most important thing is that Bowdoin is letting students know about the risk of mumps, that mumps is around,” she said. 

Mills noted that the spread of mumps—or any infectious disease—is generally unpredictable.

“Other universities [have] had cases where it just fizzled and they didn’t have any more. And then they’ve had cases where it just festered all year long,” Mills said. 

Maher said he thinks that Bowdoin is handling the mumps outbreak well.

“It’s slow moving,” he said. “I think it’s going to be similar to our peer institutions. Bates had eight—I think that we’ll be looking to wrap things up at a similar number.”

Mills highlighted three keys to prevent spread of the virus. First, students should ensure they have had two doses of the vaccine and people who are not vaccinated should leave campus. Second, everyone should be aware of the symptoms and see a medical professional if symptoms present. People should also be hyper-vigilant with hygiene, such as hands-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when ill.

Maher said that the mumps outbreak has been good practice in implementing emergency protocols.

“It’s been a great way to roll out the sort of policies and protocols of what could be a bigger outbreak,” he said.