Raise your hand if you thought mumps — the infectious disease that can make your neck swell — had gone the way of Saturday classes, cheap tuition and residence hall curfews.
Separate outbreaks in the past month at both High Point University and Elon University show that mumps still lurks. The two schools confirmed a combined 17 mumps cases — five more than were reported across all of North Carolina in 2018.
In fact, several recent outbreaks at colleges and universities led to national surges in reported mumps cases over the past several years.
So why do college campuses seem to be a nexus for mumps cases? And why mumps of all things? Pull out a pen and paper or your laptop because this all might be on the test.
Mumps is a contagious viral disease that can cause puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.
Mumps starts out like a bad cold or the flu — with fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. Next comes massive swelling of the salivary glands for about one long, miserable week.
Some people who get the mumps show very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. In unusual cases, mumps can cause inflammation of the testicles or ovaries. In rare cases it causes hearing loss.
Symptoms don’t usually appear until on average 16 to 18 days after a person is infected. An infected person is contagious for two days before their face begins to swell and five days after swelling appears.
The mumps virus is found in saliva and in respiratory droplets in the throat, nose and mouth.
The virus spreads in lots of ways: by sneezing, coughing, talking or kissing; by sharing cups, bottles and eating utensils; by taking part in sports, dancing or other close-contact activities; and by touching things with unwashed hands that contagious people with unwashed hands have touched before you.
Back in the day, mumps was a common childhood disease. During World War I, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only illnesses that sent more soldiers to the hospital were influenza and gonorrhea. Some 212,000 mumps cases were reported in 1964, according to the CDC — nearly the combined enrollment of North Carolina’s 16 public universities today.
Mumps declined after a vaccine (more on that in a minute) was introduced in the United States in the late 1960s. After a two-dose mumps vaccine became commonplace by the late 1980s, reported mumps cases declined by 99%.
Since 2005, North Carolina has generally seen between three and 15 mumps cases per year, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The cases at HPU were the first in Guilford County since 2014. Alamance County, Elon’s home, hadn’t seen a mumps case since 2006.
Even three recent statewide spikes — 60 cases in 2006, 49 in 2016 and 50 in 2017 — are relatively minor compared to the pre-vaccine days.
Nationally since 2000, the CDC said the number of mumps cases have fluctuated between 229 in 2012 and 6,584 in 2006, when mumps swept through several college campuses in the Midwest. Most years, the U.S. sees fewer than 1,000 mumps cases.
Nope. But there is a vaccine. Most Americans have been vaccinated against mumps. Many have received two rounds of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine — at 12 to 15 months and at 4 to 6 years.
North Carolina law requires most college students to get at least two mumps vaccine shots before they can enroll, though students can apply for medical or religious exemptions. Elon and High Point universities say they comply with the state’s vaccination laws and that nearly all of their students have had at least two MMR shots.
The MMR vaccine isn’t foolproof, however. Health experts say two MMR shots are 88% effective at warding off mumps. Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious diseases expert with Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, said that the immunity to mumps provided by the vaccine can wane a bit for some people. This most often happens in late adolescence or early adulthood — about the time folks are going to college.
A college campus seems to be the perfect place for mumps. Mumps is highly contagious. College campuses are full of young adults whose protection against mumps might be starting to fade. And many colleges are what Ohl called a “congregate setting” — lots of people living, learning, eating and playing in the same spaces.
“What better setting to have person-to-person transmission than a university,” Ohl said.
High Point and Elon certainly fit the definition of a “congregate setting.”
Nearly all of High Point’s undergraduates live on campus.
At Elon, about two-thirds of students reside in university housing, while most of the rest can walk to campus in 10 minutes or less.
Since late September, health officials have confirmed 11 cases of mumps at High Point and six at Elon. All of the infected persons were students. Kelly Haight Connor, a state DHHS spokeswoman, said no other N.C. university has seen a mumps case this fall.
It could have been a lot worse. In a year-long outbreak from 2015 to 2016, the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois each reported more than 300 mumps cases.
As to why mumps hit Elon and HPU, no one knows exactly how it got to campus.
“It’s like flu — it’s always out there,” Connor said.
Elon and High Point worked closely with county and state officials and rolled out what health officials described as a standard response.
“Everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Connor said.
Once mumps cases popped up on their campuses, the two schools notified other students and employees who might have come in contact with infected persons. They communicated with the campus about risk factors and preventative measures. And they offered MMR vaccines to students, faculty and staff. Elon has given out nearly 800 MMR shots at a pair of recent on-campus events. HPU is holding campus-wide shot clinics this week.
Jana Lynn Patterson, Elon’s associate vice president for student life and dean of students, said Elon and other schools must be careful to share vital information without causing a panic. Elon, like many other schools in similar situations, developed and is following its plan for dealing with a campus-wide illness.
“We’re not in a panic state,” Patterson said. “We’re managing things and managing individual students who are sick.”
But mumps was a little different, she said, and it prompted some anxiety on campus.
“Mumps isn’t something you hear about in a young adult population any more,” she said. “There are a lot of unknowns about it. It’s just not something we deal with every day.”
How worried should you be?Not very worried at all, Ohl said, especially if you’re not a college student living on campus.
“Even if you are a college student,” he added. “I’d worry more about the final exams next week than getting the mumps. But wash your hands.”
GREENSBORO — Before taking the stage here Wednesday as part of his “Decision America” tour, the Rev. Franklin Graham discussed the president’s pullout of American troops in Syria, a country where his nonprofit has worked for decades.
“I’m hoping in the next couple of days he’ll make some changes,” Graham said before preaching to an over-capacity crowd of about 8,600 at the White Oak Amphitheatre. The event wasn’t marred by mass protests like some of the other stops on the tour.
The North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse has provided basic necessities to refugees there, who have fled violence on the country’s borders.
After American troops were pulled out this week, the country, whose Kurdish fighters have been longtime American allies, was attacked by Turkey.
When he first took the stage, Graham, also the CEO and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, spent the first few minutes asking those in the audience to pray for the country and its leaders.
And he stepped back from the microphone and asked the audience to specifically pray out loud for several leaders, among them President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — whom he referenced as the “opposition” at least once on Wednesday. He said America’s problems are deep.
He spoke of people sleeping in the streets and immigrants in this country who need a path to citizenship. He also spoke of America becoming a “secular” nation.
“I think our country is in trouble,” Graham said. “The Republicans are not going to fix it. The Democrats are not going to fix it. God is our only hope.”
But Graham also made it clear that he wasn’t in Greensboro to talk politics.
“This is not a political rally,” Graham said. “We are here to tell people how they can have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
He spoke in the footprint of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, where in 1951 Baptists constructed a 10,000-seat building on what had been a grassy lot so that his father, the Rev. Billy Graham, could “save souls.” Nearly 400,000 people attended the crusade after more than a month of services.
On Wednesday, after performances by Grammy-nominated singer Jeremy Camp and guitarist Dennis Agajanian, Graham spoke of people in need of hope.
Many in the audience agreed, as they yelled out “Amen!” and “Hallelujah.”
Debbie and Randy Apple sat in the front row.
“We are in trouble without God,” Debbie Apple said.
GREENSBORO — Pain and anger. Disappointment and resentment.
Those were the emotions expressed Monday night as local residents discussed the current police administration.
More than 70 residents gathered Monday at Shiloh Baptist Church to discuss what they want to see in the next police chief.
But much of the conversation focused on what they did not like about current Chief Wayne Scott, who is retiring early next year.
Since Scott became chief in March 2015, the department has faced allegations of racial discrimination, an increase in violent crimes that led to 44 homicides in 2017, the highest number of homicides in a single year and at least two in-custody deaths.
The death of Marcus Smith, who died in police custody after being restrained using the controversial RIPP-Hobble device, was frequently brought up. His mother, Mary Smith, sent a written statement that was read during the meeting.
“When the city looks for a new person to hire for any position — but especially for important positions like Chief of Police — they should make sure the candidates don’t have any character resembling Chief Scott’s character,” Mary Smith said.
Smith said Scott led her to believe her son was suicidal and combative before he collapsed. After watching the officers’ body-worn camera footage of her son’s death, she said she regrets repeating to her church and family what Scott had told her.
“You’re going to let the chief walk away from this, on the taxpayer’s dime,” Smith asked. “This is the most cowardly way for the council to act. And for him to want to walk away when the heat is on is despicable.”
But distrust in the Greensboro Police Department reaches past Scott’s tenure.
Residents brought up the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, a 2015 New York Times article that spotlights racial disparities in Greensboro policing and the “black book” created during former Police Chief David Wray’s tenure. Wray said the book with photos of 19 officers was used to investigate a sexual assault, but minority officers who sued over it alleged the book was used to unfairly investigate black officers. People attending Monday’s meeting also talked about five minority officers they said were forced out for speaking out against past administrations.
But Scott’s hiring was especially controversial. City Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy told the consultants leading the meeting that city residents felt betrayed when they learned Scott was their new chief.
She said at that time, before she was on the council, Kennedy met with 80 other leaders at the Greensboro Coliseum and discussed who they wanted as the next police chief.
The decision was down to Scott or Danielle Outlaw, now police chief for Portland, Ore.
“We felt really strongly about one candidate, and the other candidate became our chief,” Kennedy said. “We were stunned where we ended up.”
Adding to the residents’ concerns Monday was the city’s selection of consulting firm Developmental Associates to help find the next chief. It’s the same firm that helped when Scott was chosen.
The Rev. Cardes Brown, who was one of the leaders at the coliseum meeting, said 12 black ministers went to then-City Manager Jim Westmoreland and voiced their concerns about Scott. They felt Outlaw would help bridge the “divided community.” Despite their concerns and the consensus at the coliseum, Westmoreland chose Scott.
“I don’t want this to be an exercise in futility,” Brown said. “We need to know that what you are going to recommend is not going to be something to appease the crowd for a little while and let them go on about business as usual. So it has to be a legitimate process.”
Consultants Pat Bazemore and Rodney Monroe, both former police chiefs, told the crowd that while their company helped with Scott’s selection, neither of them were involved. They also reminded the room that the decision ultimately falls to City Manager David Parrish.
Monroe appeared to win over the crowd by showing he understood their concerns. One person asked if he would come out of retirement to be Greensboro’s next chief.
“No, no, no, no,” Monroe said. “That cannot happen. Forty years is 40 years.”
Monroe also got the crowd to focus on the needs of the city in searching for its next police chief.
It became clear that the residents want a chief that can unite the community no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation. They want a chief with accountability, transparency, common-sense and an understanding of the community.
Monroe and Bazemore will now meet with Parrish and Assistant City Manager Trey Davis to discuss the community’s feedback, coupled with responses from an online survey, and develop an advertisement for the police chief position.
But the 70 gathered at the meeting, including Cardes and Kennedy, urged Davis and the consultants to talk with them along the way.
“As a council member, I completely understand that this decision rests on the shoulders of our city manager,” Kennedy said, “but there are 300,000 people in this city who have a very strong opinion about it and, frankly, whose opinion matters more.”
MADISON — Ray Love still isn’t quite sure why he took the road less traveled on the afternoon of Oct. 1.
But his decision to deviate from Interstate 73 led him to children in dire need.
“I was on my way to do a side job, and I don’t know what it was, but something told me to stay in the left hand lane that takes me down (N.C. Hwy.) 68 instead,’’ Love said.
“I might go that way once every five or six months, but rarely,’’ said the Marine and veteran of Operation Desert Storm who used a soldier’s instinct to rescue 18 youngsters Oct. 1 after their private school bus crashed in Stokesdale.
The Madison native, 48, had just finished work as an electrician at Camco in Greensboro.
“When I got within a couple of miles of where 68 and (U.S.) 220 split, I was just driving along, looking over my right shoulder out in the distance, and I seen two huge black tires sticking up,’’ Love said.
“It was eerily quiet, but I heard kids in the background, and they were screaming and still in the bus. The bus was dead still,’’ said the former machine gunner, who served in Kuwait.
“The way it was sitting on its top, nobody had gotten out. And I made my way down to the back of the bus and there was a kid trying to push open the back door and help the others out,’’ Love said.
“But it was so heavy, he couldn’t hardly move it. So I grabbed the door, and I opened it and … he immediately jumped down beside me and started helping,’’ Love said of the lad, among the eldest in the group of 5- to 10-year-olds bound that afternoon from Huntsville Elementary School to Stokesdale’s Operation EXCEL after-school program.
“I could see them starting to congregate toward me, and three little girls just held their arms out. … They were so small I think they might have been in first or second grade,’’ Love said, explaining the bus was positioned at an incline that forced children to climb up to the back exit.
“So I was able to just start taking them out and setting the kids down, one at a time, on the ground.’’
Despite their fear, the children demonstrated calm discipline as they exited the bus that had come to rest on its top some 10 feet down an embankment after being struck by a passenger truck.
“They started lining up single file like they was going through a lunch line, and even though they were hurting and in pain, they all just kinda came to me,’’ Love said, tearing up as he recounted the scene.
Relieved when two other men stopped and scurried down the embankment to help, Love delegated them to move children from the hot, kudzu-laden spot to a shady area to wait for first responders.
“I didn’t want to stop getting kids out of the bus in case it shifted or something,’’ Love said.
Love and another man helped usher out an adult female passenger with leg injuries. Then Love had to convince the bus driver Makawi Abdelgadir, 58, to shake off his shock and exit the vehicle.
Though kids were banged up, no student had evident broken bones, which surprised Love, he said. “The bus had to have barrel rolled,’’ he said.
Within an estimated 15 minutes of the crash, firefighters had arrived and were treating the kids and preparing them for transport to Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro for treatment. All were released by that evening.
Love yielded to emergency workers and returned to his truck to gather himself, adrenaline still pumping.
His phone rang there on the roadside, and it was his friend Teresa Southern, a former longtime public school bus driver, herself.
“When I was explaining it to her, it just overwhelmed her with emotion,’’ said Love, father of a daughter, 24.
“She asked me how I happened to come down 68, and I said I didn’t know. ... I said I can’t explain it. I think maybe (God) was using me to be at the right place at the right time,” Love said.
“Like I told Teresa, running down there to the bus was the easy part,” he said. “I was scared of what I was gonna see when I opened that door. I’m just thankful that the kids came out … it was a blessing.’’