In response to a mumps outbreak on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz, state, county, and school officials are joining together to hold vaccination clinics this week.
Eight of the first nine students who had contracted mumps were those on the school’s intercollegiate swim team. Now, there have been 69 confirmed or probable cases of mumps associated with SUNY New Paltz and reported to the state Department of Health since October. Additional cases are under investigation. Brad Hutton is deputy commissioner of the state Health Department’s Office of Public Health. He says the hope is that dispensing the third dose of the MMR vaccine over the next two days will stop the outbreak.
“We are planning and hoping to vaccinate 3,000 individuals,” says Hutton. “Other large campuses in other parts of the country that have done this in the last two years have had about 20-25 percent of the student body agree to be vaccinated so we’re trying to at least aim for that.”
He says the vast majority of cases have been among SUNY New Paltz undergrads. In a statement, SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian says, “We are grateful for the coordinated effort from the Ulster County Health Department and the New York State Health Department to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff at SUNY New Paltz.” Again, Hutton.
“So there’s some evidence that the third dose of vaccine will increase immunity level among students who could potentially be exposed in the future and prevent them from being sick. So that’s the focus of tomorrow and Wednesday’s clinic, to try and get as many students as possible to receive a third dose of MMR, raise their level of protection against mumps,” Hutton says. “The other is really to take this opportunity to educate students about what they can do to prevent transmission, so to recognize signs and symptoms early.”
And, he says to seek medical attention and isolate themselves from others if they are sick .MMR is the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, typically given at 15-18 months of age, with a second dose before school age. Two doses of MMR vaccine are 88 percent effective in preventing mumps.
Statewide, there have been 147 confirmed or probable cases of mumps reported to New York’s health department in 2016, compared with 24 in 2015. It’s the highest number of reported mumps cases since 2010, with a reported 663 cases, most related to a large outbreak downstate. Most of the cases this year have been associated with outbreaks on college campuses and Hutton notes that other states have also reported college outbreaks over the past year.
“So nationally we’re seeing an increase in mumps, especially in college campuses. I think it’s a combination of decreased herd immunity, we call it, where you have more and more people who are choosing to forego the required vaccination that would protect them and then, as a result, we see continued cases of mumps.” Hutton says. “And when it occurs in a setting like a college campus where there’s lots of close contact, sharing of drinks and other saliva contact that you have these outbreaks continue.”
He says the clinics come after meeting criteria from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Those criteria include an attack rate of five cases or more per thousand individuals, which we’ve recently reached with the increase in cases in New Paltz. Also sustained transmission, and so we’ve now had several different incubation periods, we call it, where this is the third potential round of transmission, which would meet the second criteria,” Hutton says. “And then the third is that we’re in a setting where there’s close contact and colleges are commonly, unfortunately, a setting where mumps can be easily transmitted through person-to-person contact among students.
The vaccination clinics will take place December 13, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and December 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Student Union at SUNY New Paltz.