Ohio University Doesn’t Require Students To Get Vaccinated Against Mumps

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John Kemerer has been practicing as a physician for 23 years. In that time he has never seen a case of mumps.

That all changed three weeks ago when he treated his first patient, a student at Ohio University, for the virus.

Kemerer, who is the medical director at Ohio University's Campus Care clinic, said it's unusual to see an increase in mumps cases in the United States.

"That's most likely due to low vaccination rates," he said.

According to the Ohio Department of Health nearly 400 people in Central Ohio contracted the mumps this year.

More than 200 of these cases were college students at Ohio State University in Columbus, according to the Columbus Public Health website.

Kemerer said diseases like mumps spread easily on campuses since many students come together at on place, sleep in dorms and often share drinks.

However, the state law doesn't require college students to get the MMR vaccination that immunize against mumps, measles and rubella, an epidemiologist at the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Mary DiOrio explained.

DiOrio said that Ohio law requires school children to get vaccinated but there are exemptions.

"If individuals have either medical contra-indications to receiving a vaccination or they or their parents have either philosophical or religious believes about vaccination they can get an exemption," she explained.

In terms of incoming college students the state requires universities provide educational information about meningococcal meningitis and hepatitis B.

College students would have to fill out a form about their vaccination status and confirm they have received the information.

However, DiOrio said some colleges in Ohio have their own requirements in terms of immunization and these could include the MMR vaccination.

According to Ohio University's Medical Services Policy the MMR vaccination is not required at OU. However, the university does recommend the MMR vaccination, Kemerer explained.

With the mumps outbreak in Ohio, officials at OU are trying to better inform students about the MMR vaccination.

"We've sent out notices through the university through the student affairs office to recommend that students come in with their MMR booster," he said.

The MMR vaccination consists of two shots. People usually get their first one when they are children. But the first dose only covers about 40 percent immunity. Physicians recommend a booster shot when people are of college age to be safe.

Kemerer said that getting mumps as an adult can also put you at risk for contracting viral meningitis. For males, he stressed, it can cause complications that can lead to infertility.

Therefore he strongly recommends students at OU to get their second shot.

"Make sure your vaccination is up to date, don't share drinks, don't share food and make sure that you wash your hands," he said.

Ohio University students can get the MMR vaccination at the Hudson Health Center.

During the summer they can walk in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.. One injection costs about $ 80 dollars.