Mumps outbreak spreads at Harvard, infecting dozens

The party might be over before it starts at Harvard, with an outbreak of mumps threatening to affect commencement and end-of-year celebrations.

More than three dozen cases have been reported on Harvard's campus to date, and the health services director says he's concerned now more than ever.

The first reported case of the mumps at Harvard was on March 1, and by the end of last week, 34 cases had been reported.

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Those infected are put in isolation on campus for the recommended five days, but the recent spike has the university worried about commencement activities.

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"That's no good. I got a couple friends that's graduating coming up, so I know they're not going to be too excited about that," student Marlon Ewell said.

Mumps is commonly spread in close quarters through contact with saliva, and gatherings where drinks or utensils might be shared poses a risk.

"I've had a lot of friends who have actually had it, and I'm thankful not to have had it yet because it's so crazy with finals and everything," student Kate Hoffman said. "I feel bad for the seniors if it is gonna happen."

Nearly all the students on campus has had the mumps vaccine required by law, but it's not perfect. The mumps vaccine is only about only 90 percent effective.

"That leads to about 10 percent of the population being susceptible for mumps, and that leads to recurrences and outbreaks every few years," Massachusetts General Hospital's professor of infectious diseases Martin Hirsch said.

Health experts in Cambridge say new cases of mumps at Harvard are not spreading into the community.

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