Stop Ostracizing People With Mumps


A flyer that was distributed throughout the school reminding students of good health habits.

It’s become the butt of every joke, the topic of numerous conversations, and a new point of gossip: The mumps has taken over Moravian in its 44-day outbreak, and students have been talking about it obsessively. 

It’s almost guaranteed that you’ve had a student sick and not in class and that someone made a comment that they were “mumpy.” While it is occasionally okay to kid other people, we also are falling into a dangerous trend of ostracizing those who are ill.

To give us some insight into how students are being treated when they have the mumps, an anonymous student came forward to tell their experience. “I did not actually have the mumps,” he wrote. “[I] only showed signs of fever. But due to the outbreak, I was asked to go home. The rumor mill got out and now I pretty much just have to say I had the mumps.” 

He doesn’t say he had mumps to get attention attention. He says it because no one will believe him otherwise. If this is how we as a community treat a student who might have had the mumps, how do we treat students who actually have it?

It’s not fair to blame those who are sick. 

Students who have had their MMR vaccine — which protects people from mumps, measles, and rubella — and those who have not are both susceptible to the illness, which is known for being contagious. In a close contact area like a college campus, it would be surprising if the illness did not spread. 

“I was asked to leave [campus] as a precaution,” the student said. When he did, he was doing all of the other students a favor. He had to miss class for a week and get support from the Accessibility Support Center. 

And yet we treated him like a walking Petri dish. 

Even students who have contracted the mumps are not contagious forever. According to Moravian’s  Health Center website, “if you experience symptoms…self-isolate, avoid travel and limit contact with others for five days from the onset of symptoms. For healthy people, there is very little risk of serious complications from the mumps.”

No one should be shunning students who do have mumps. Students with the mumps are people, too. They’re already dealing with the challenges of being sick; they should not have to face rejection and embarrassment as well, as our anonymous student has. 

“It’s interesting how the campus has reacted,” he wrote, “especially with how unforgiving we’ve been to each other for catching it or even being suspected of catching it.”

We are facing a situation right now that affects all of us. No one deserves to get the mumps — or to be ostracized for contracting it. Don’t exclude them if they have the mumps (or even if they don’t).

We need to build a community that supports those who are sick.