A Bowdoin employee has contracted one of Maine's first three cases of mumps among residents in the last ten years, state health officials said yesterday. According to Andy Pelletier, a medical epidemiologist at the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), all three cases were diagnosed since September 27.
"It's unusual," Pelletier said. "It's an opportunity to encourage people to get vaccinated if they haven't already done so."
Director of Human Resources Tama Spoerri would not identify the employee, citing Maine CDC restrictions. Contracted Physician at Bowdoin Jeffrey Maher did say that the employee had little direct contact with students, and was out sick for much of the time that he or she was infectious.
In a campus-wide e-mail sent Tuesday, Spoerri said that the employee has recovered and been cleared to return to work, and that only 10 Bowdoin students have not been fully vaccinated against the virus.
According to Clinical Care Coordinator Wendy Sansone, those 10 students either have refused to be vaccinated for religious or philosophical reasons, have some sort of health problem that precludes it, or have not completed the two-dose immunization. She said that the health center has contacted the students who have not completed the immunization to encourage them to do so.
While mumps is not deadly and is considered self-limiting (meaning the immune system will eradicate the virus without assistance from antibiotics), Pelletier said that the Maine CDC takes all vaccine-preventable diseases seriously.
"Mumps can make you uncomfortable, and knock you out of commission for a several days," he said. "In adults in can be a little more severe in that males can get inflammation of the testicles, which can result in sterility."
Normal mumps symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, and headache, as well as inflammation of the salivary glands, according to Spoerri's e-mail.
Mumps is spread through saliva or respiratory droplets. The virus is contagious from about two days before the onset of the gland inflammation, and until about four days after it appears, Pelletier said.
He added that the CDC will "usually restrict people's activity before and after," which generally amounts to a little less than a week. There is no cure other than to let it run its course.
The mumps vaccine was first systematically administered in 1957, and people born before then are assumed to have already had the disease and therefore be immune.
However, a full immunization against mumps requires two doses of the vaccine, and this was not discovered until 1968, according to Maher.
At one dose, the vaccine is only considered to be around 80 percent effective.
Employees born between 1957 and 1968 are therefore at slightly higher risk of contracting the disease, though Maher said that those people probably also have some natural immunity.
If employees born during this period are concerned about their level of vaccination, Maher encouraged them to visit their regular doctor.
Currently, he said, the College is not requiring these people to get a second dose.
"The health center responsibility is for students," he said. "If you had a real outbreak of dozens of people you'd have a real discussion."
Additionally, even the two-dose vaccine does not guarantee 100 percent coverage, Pelletier said. Mumps has been on the rise in the last year. In May, the Maine CDC issued a public health advisory regarding an outbreak of 271 cases of mumps in Eastern Canada.
In 2006, Iowa confirmed 245 cases, the largest outbreak in the nation in 17 years. College students made up approximately 23 percent of that, according to a report in the New York Times. Pelletier said that colleges are at increased risk for a mumps outbreak, though vaccinations can help reduce the likelihood.
"Whenever you have people in a combined institutional setting it's a favorable environment for transmission of infectious disease," he said. "That's one of the reasons states have laws requiring immunizations before school entry."