Mumps outbreak prompts hundreds to get vaccine

Simone Anne Lang/Staff
Hundreds of people waited in line outside UC Berkeley's Tang Center to receive a free mumps vaccination.

In light of the recent mumps outbreak, hundreds of students and faculty braved intermittent rain Thursday to wait for a vaccine that immunizes against mumps, measles and rubella.

At least 900 students, faculty and staff — who waited in line for an hour — were vaccinated Thursday, according to Kim LaPean, University Health Services communications manager.

The outbreak — which so far consists of seven confirmed and 13 suspected cases of mumps, according to LaPean — is large enough for the California Department of Public Health to get involved. The department has partnered with the UC Berkeley Tang Center in distributing and supplying the vaccines.

The department gave the Tang Center 1,000 vaccines for Thursday and is willing to provide additional groups of 1,000 doses as needed, according to Brad Buchman, medical director of University Health Services. The Tang Center has already scheduled future vaccination clinics on Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 8 and Nov. 16 to administer the vaccines.

“The state department is worried about it enough to make it free,” said Buchman.

The turnout for the vaccination clinic was much larger than for previous flu clinics, said LaPean.

“Even when we had our H1N1 vaccinations, the clinics were well-attended, but nothing like this, so having something that lasts this long is more than we expected and we are thrilled,” she said.

Generally only high risk patients — those who have not already received a vaccination — would receive the vaccination, but the department decided that all students should be able to receive an additional vaccination to prevent further spread of the infection. The decision was based on the recent 2010 mumps outbreak in New York, where over 1,500 people were infected, including many who had been previously vaccinated, according to Buchman.

The department is trying to prevent the spread of the disease because mumps can cause serious complications, such as inflammation of the brain or the testicles and ovaries.

“These risks are in the single digits but the more people that get mumps virus the higher chance of someone developing these serious complications,” Buchman said.

Ten to 20 percent of people who are infected with mumps develop no symptoms or can take two to four months to develop symptoms, so people can spread the disease without even knowing they have it, according to Buchman. The school has reserved  rooms in dorm houses to isolate up to 10 infected individuals, he said.

“Once the disease spreads to more than 10 people, which I think it will, we’ll be telling students to wear masks and stay in their dorms,” Buchman said. “We want to give precautious measures, telling people to wash their hands and not share food. But we also want people out and about. This isn’t the plague, but we still want to minimize the spread.”