Mumps: Don't Call it a Comeback

In the midst of news regarding measles and pertussis, two diseases enjoying resurgences due to lack of immunity from lax vaccination attitudes (see this Pittsburgh Tribune Review article), mumps also appears to be making a comeback. In fact, however, the 2014 outbreaks at Fordham and Ohio universities are part of a trend that began in the US around 2006.

In contrast to the other vaccine preventable diseases, mumps appears to be somewhat mysterious in that it occurs in highly vaccinated populations and not in those lacking immunity. Such outbreaks didn't occur pre-2006 which leads to several questions: 

  1. Has the mumps virus strain changed to a point where it is somewhat less likely to be stopped by the current vaccine's induced antibodies?
  2. Do crowded conditions at college campuses somehow overwhelm immunity?
  3. Are there super spreaders who shed high amounts of virus? 

Overall, though mumps is a much less virulent disease than measles and has less individual--and public health--import.