MUSC helps fight mumps outbreak at College of Charleston

September 24, 2019
Infectious disease expert Scott Curry talks with reporters.

MUSC Health doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other experts will hold a mumps vaccination clinic at the College of Charleston tomorrow and Thursday amid an outbreak at the school. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control has confirmed at least three people at the College of Charleston have the contagious but usually preventable disease.

The mumps vaccination clinic will be in the Stern Student Center Sept. 25 and Sept. 26, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A team of 30 to 40 people from MUSC will be involved in the effort to vaccinate College of Charleston faculty, staff and students who:

  • Don’t know if they’re vaccinated.
  • Have not had the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, also known as MMR.
Dr. Terrence Steyer 
Dr. Terrence Steyer

 Terrence Steyer, M.D., chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the College of Charleston asked for MUSC’s help because of its experience in holding large vaccination events on campus and expertise in treating infectious diseases.

“One of the keys of immunization is making it readily available in a convenient location,” Steyer said. “College students are busy people and we want to make sure we’re available to them in a place where it’s easy to come and get vaccinated.”

Scott Curry, M.D., associate hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at MUSC Health, studies health problems that affect groups of people — including mumps. He said the MMR vaccine does not cause autism and does not contain mercury, contrary to what some people think. “There are very few legitimate medical reasons not to get the MMR vaccine. People who have very impaired immune systems, pregnant women, people who have had severe allergic reactions to previous MMR vaccine doses and people with untreated AIDS are about it.”

He’s frustrated that mumps and measles have made a comeback. “It really blows my mind that we have now become so distrustful of the medical establishment, and the CDC for goodness' sake, that we’re going to start saying that those of us pushing MMR are trying to poison children. I don’t know of a single physician who has not vaccinated their kids — on schedule, every dose, when it’s recommended. Vaccines are hands-down better at saving lives than anything else ever developed in the battle against childhood diseases. They have saved more lives than antibiotics.”

A single dose of MMR is about 78% effective at preventing mumps, Curry said. Two doses are 88% effective. About 12% of people who are vaccinated can still get the mumps if exposed to a case.

Child with swollen neck 
Mumps can cause swelling in the cheek and jaw areas.

But one encouraging fact, Curry said, is that it’s not as easy to get mumps as it is to get some other contagious diseases, such as measles. “Mumps, you have to be sharing spoons, kissing, drinking from the same cup or getting coughed on by someone close by with mumps. Things like that.”

And mumps is almost never deadly, Curry said. But it can make you miserable, and in some cases, take a lifelong toll. “The problem is, for kids, it can cause deafness. Adults who get mumps, who are totally unvaccinated, they’re going to have faces blown up like a basketball and feel horrible for a week. If you’re a man, you can get orchitis – swelling of the testicle.”

Anybody who is able should be vaccinated, he said — including college students.

Steyer said MUSC is glad to work with the College of Charleston to try to keep the outbreak from growing. “The College of Charleston is a valuable partner to MUSC, and we want to be there to help them when they have health-related issues on campus. This just further strengthens that partnership.”

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