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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Avoid a "Contagion" by getting vaccinated

Checking the news and the UNC meme page makes it seem like the world is becoming like the film “Contagion.” In the movie, a mystery disease infects the world and society crumbles. With confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world, and a mumps case here in Chapel Hill, the threat of disease seems omnipresent. 

UNC is decidedly not like “Contagion.” Only one case of the mumps has been reported on campus. Still, this is a good opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of vaccinations and staying healthy this season. 

This year has been free of the scandals that defined the 2018-2019 academic year. But just as we began to relax, diseases (old and new) have emerged.

On Jan. 22, the UNC community received an email from Alert Carolina that a case of the mumps had been reported on campus. This is not necessarily a reason to be concerned, but the disease can still spread quickly; especially on a university campus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mumps can be a potentially fatal virus characterized by symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Most people will also have swelling of their cheeks and jaw as a result of inflamed salivary glands.

The majority of people in industrialized countries have the mumps vaccine, however outbreaks still occur. Prolonged contact with someone with mumps can also lead to vaccinated people getting the mumps. In fact, the vaccine does not have a 100 percent effectiveness rate — it is roughly 88 percent. 

Still, the vaccine has been proven to decrease the number of cases and alleviates the symptoms of those who get the disease. Like other vaccines, the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. According to the CDC, the mumps vaccine “is the best way to protect your child against mumps.”

A place like UNC is especially vulnerable to diseases like mumps. The close contact with other people and shared living spaces are perfect conditions for a disease like mumps to spread. 

History shows that universities in North Carolina are not immune to mumps. In October 2019, High Point University had a mumps outbreak with over 20 confirmed cases over a two month period.

For UNC students, the period when symptoms could develop from mumps are Jan. 23 to Feb. 12. UNC students should be on the lookout and be conscious of anyone who may be presenting symptoms.

The question that everyone has been asking is how, in 2020, people are still getting mumps.

Well, UNC requires students to present their vaccination records before entering the University. In those requirements, two doses of mumps vaccines are required (two doses is the regular amount). However, there are exemptions available for students. 

Medical exemptions have to be signed by a physician, but religious exemptions only have to be signed by the students and their legal guardian, if applicable. North Carolina law allows for religious exemptions, so as a state school the policy also applies to university students. 

Although only one case has been reported, student vaccination exemptions and the close nature of our University can lead to a significant mumps outbreak. 

No, “Contagion” is not in our future, but the well-being of the students here could definitely become compromised. 

Some general advice: make sure you are vaccinated, wash your hands, avoid places with a lot of people and go to a doctor ASAP if you are not feeling well.

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