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Office of the Provost

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
Today we received confirmation of two cases of mumps in the Harvard community – one undergraduate student and one graduate student at the Harvard Divinity School. Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) has contacted the Cambridge Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and is working in conjunction with these organizations to identify the cause and scope of the infection.
Mumps is a systemic viral illness characterized by swelling of one or more salivary glands. Symptoms may first present as an ear ache or jaw pain, and other non-specific symptoms including fever, muscle aches, and fatigue may also occur. The mumps virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets and by direct contact with nasopharyngeal secretions. Treatment is focused on relief of symptoms such as fever and pain from facial swelling.

Individuals who have previously had mumps are considered immune to the virus. However, those who have been vaccinated for mumps—though much less likely to contract the virus—can still be infected. 
Prevention is centered on good hygiene:

  • Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Dispose of used tissues and other similar objects appropriately
  • Do not share glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, etc. 

HUHS has been in contact with those who tested positive for mumps, and accommodations are being made for those individuals. The Public Health Department will also be contacting these individuals to determine the scope of the exposure.
If you are experiencing any facial swelling, jaw pain, ear ache, or for males, testicular swelling, you should refrain from public activities and contact HUHS at 617-495-5711 to be evaluated, even if you have been vaccinated.
Under the direction of the Public Health Department, those who have been diagnosed with mumps or presumptive mumps (while they are awaiting test results) will be advised to self-isolate for five days after the onset of parotid swelling. Accommodations are being made for those individuals to minimize exposure to others.
HUHS continues to monitor this situation closely, and additional information can be found at huhs.harvard.edu/mumps. Please contact HUHS at 617-496-3104 or 617-495-2088 (Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:30pm) or Urgent Care at 617-495-5711 at night or during the weekend.

Paul J. Barreira, MD
Director, Harvard University Health Services
Henry K. Oliver Professor of Hygiene


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