A case of the mumps, a rare viral disease that spreads person-to-person by droplets, was confirmed on campus last week.
“Folks are usually infectious from a few days before to five days after the onset of jaw swelling, and any person that is suspected of having mumps while waiting for a confirmation diagnosis is typically isolated for that period of five days,” said Michelle Camarena, director of nursing and performance improvement at Campus Health.
An Alert Carolina message reported the dates the student is suspected to have been infectious range from Jan. 11 to 18.
Individuals who may have come into contact with the student have been notified directly.
“I was kind of taken aback at first,” Alapika Jatkar, a junior majoring in neuroscience and chemistry, said. “I got the Alert Carolina like everyone else, but I also got a separate email that basically said, ‘You’ve been identified as a student who may have come in contact with this person and the likelihood of contracting this disease is super low, but if you feel any of the following symptoms, go to the doctor.’”
Symptoms of concern include fever, muscle aches, unusual tiredness, loss of appetite and headaches.
“Symptoms are typically like other respiratory viruses,” Camarena said. “But the classic sign is swelling of the parotid gland.”
According to Dr. Thevy Chai, director of medical services at Campus Health, mumps is a viral illness from which most people typically recover. Chai said UNC requires two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
“The rest of the world doesn’t have as many strict guidelines — other states or other colleges and universities — so there will be individuals who may not have had the two doses, or just had one, and they will be more susceptible to getting this illness,” Chai said.
Chai said the infected student may have been exposed to somebody who had the disease somewhere else.
“Outbreak situations tend to occur more in unvaccinated populations and then spread,” Camerana said. “Cases of 300 to 400 people getting the mumps are typically started in communities of unvaccinated individuals.”
Efficacy of the vaccine is about 88 to 90 percent, Chai said.
“There’s this concept of what was previously called herd immunity, but now it’s referred to as community immunity,” Chai said. “So the more people — like at UNC — the more people in a population that have been vaccinated, the more it’s going to shield and help protect the rest of the community from a spread or an outbreak of the illness.”
As such, Camerana and Chai, co-chairpersons of the Infection Control Committee, encourage people to be aware of their vaccination status, especially during this time of the year.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.