(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Last month, Winthrop University students and staff received an email from Sheila Burkhalter, vice president of student affairs, disclosing there had been a case of the mumps on campus.
The email, Feb. 10, assured recipients the situation was handled quickly by isolating the afflicted student from the rest of campus.
Despite the case was seemingly isolated and taken care of, there was still the possibility the mumps could spread across campus, which created concern among students, especially about Winthrop’s vaccination policy.
Isabella Rodriguez, a senior political science major, said she wasn’t terribly worried about contracting the mumps, because she has been vaccinated, however, she said it still raised some concerns.
“I was kind of stressed out when I saw the headline, but I saw that it was contained, so that made me less concerned and I was not all that worried about catching it. I also am vaccinated so that makes me less wary for myself, however, it is just kind of stressful in general,” Rodriguez said.
Winthrop requires students born after 1957 to provide proof of having received the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella (or German measles). Students must have been vaccinated for tetanus within the past 10 years.
Additionally, students who do not comply must pay a $50 non-compliance fee that is charged to their student account.
Katie Roach, a registered nurse with Winthrop Health Services, said an overwhelming majority of the student body has provided proof of vaccination, with just 1.1 percent of students who are non-compliant or the university has no data on.
While it’s a small number of students who have not been vaccinated, Roach said there are several reasons why students may choose to opt out.
“A lot of students who would chose not to get vaccinated have some misconceptions of vaccines and what they can cause and then there are some medical conditions that would prevent you from getting vaccines,” said Roach.
“Someone who is immunocompromised, depending on what they have, they may not be vaccinated, and then you can also have religious reasons as to why you wouldn’t get a vaccine.”
Emily O’Regan, a senior theatre major, is one of the students on campus who has not been vaccinated.
She said finding out about the case of the mumps was troublesome, due to her increased risk of contracting the illness.
“It was a little alarming when I first heard about it, because I knew I had a better chance of catching it but there haven’t been any more recent cases so I feel pretty safe now,” said O’Regan.
“Another thing that had me worried was the fact that if the outbreak got worse, I was going to be quarantined to my apartment. I wouldn’t have been able to work, go to class, or participate in ‘A Midsummer (Night’s Dream),’” O’Regan said, which was recently put on by the theatre department.
However, Roach said students should not be worried about contracting the mumps.
“It was just one case. We are about two days out from the window as to where if we don’t have anymore cases we don’t have to worry about it anymore, so that’s a good thing,” she said.
“Really and truly as long as you are doing your basic hand hygiene, covering your cough, that kind of thing, taking the basic standard precautions that’s the best way to prevent it, other than getting vaccinated.”