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College of Charleston mumps outbreak rises to 51 cases

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The College of Charleston announced this week that the number of mumps cases has risen to 51 after eight more cases of the virus were confirmed. File/AP

The College of Charleston confirmed eight new cases of the mumps this week, bringing its total number of cases to 51. 

This comes after an outbreak of the virus was announced in September, when three cases of the virus were confirmed. The 51 cases include various members of the campus community, including some who are not students, a college spokesman said. 

The college also announced this week it would not close because of the outbreak. President Andrew Hsu wrote a letter last week to encourage students, especially fraternity and sorority members, to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to help combat the outbreak. 

The school also has hosted clinics to assist students who have not been vaccinated. The original three confirmed cases affected both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. 

While the vaccine doesn't make someone completely immune to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that two doses of the MMR vaccine reduces a person's risk of getting the mumps by around 88 percent. 

Before a mumps vaccination program was established in America in 1967, the CDC found that the country had about 186,000 cases a year. After the recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine were introduced in 1989, mumps cases decreased by more than 99 percent. 

After the vaccine was introduced, the U.S. would see a few hundred cases every few years at most. But in 2006, the CDC reported more mumps outbreaks. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of reported cases went from a little over 300 to more than 6,500 nationwide. 

Between 2016 and 2017, the CDC reported 150 outbreaks of the mumps. And last month, they confirmed that 48 states and the District of Columbia have reported over 2,500 infections of the mumps this year. 

Other colleges are seeing similar outbreaks. Elon and High Point universities in North Carolina currently are experiencing an outbreak of the mumps. Elon confirmed 10 cases this week. As of the end of October, High Point had 21 mumps cases. 

The mumps is a contagious virus whose symptoms include fever, muscle aches and swelling of the salivary glands. It typically takes between 16 and 18 days for symptoms to appear. Students at the College of Charleston must provide proof that they received the MMR vaccine or a waiver saying they declined it.

At the time of the outbreak, the college had almost 200 students out of around 12,000 who had signed that waiver. It's expecting to see new mumps cases throughout the month of November. 

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Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.

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