You might not remember, but sometime after your first birthday, you were probably vaccinated for mumps. Most likely, it happened again before you went to kindergarten. Thanks to those vaccinations, which started in the late 1960s, the disease was thought to be nearly wiped out.
But more than 1,000 people, mostly teens and young adults, have recently been diagnosed with mumps it in the Midwest -- an outbreak federal health experts are calling the largest in almost two decades.
Why are so many people coming down with the virus if most of us received the recommended two doses of the "MMR" vaccine -- as in "measles, mumps, rubella" -- when we were kids? How did the outbreak start, and what's it like to fall victim to mumps?
asap asked the directors of the student health centers at the University of Iowa and the University of Kansas -- in the two states hit hardest so far -- to explain.
VACCINATED, AND YET....
Dr. Patricia Denning, at the KU campus in Lawrence, Kan., says vaccinations for mumps were so effective in the 1970s that cases of the virus plummeted.
"Typically we see zero cases of mumps in a year," she said one day last week. "There were four new people diagnosed yesterday. More overnight. We're adding cases everyday."
So if everyone was vaccinated, why all the new cases?
"We don't have the answer for that," Denning said. "I think we'll determine there is waning immunity through time with this vaccine."
Dr. Mary Khowassah at the Iowa campus in Iowa City offers another possibility: She says a small percentage who received the vaccination didn't end up with immunity to mumps, so they're catching the virus now.
There has been speculation that two Iowa airline passengers carried the virus on flights, but otherwise no other indication of how this particular outbreak started, Khowassah said. And to make it even more difficult to curb the spread, health officials can't find any particular hot spots.
"We have examined our cases to see if they were localized, such as (in) the residence halls," Khowassah said. "We haven't found anything convincing. They're just sporadic throughout campus."
BIG MUMP ON CAMPUS
Let's say you're a college student and you've been diagnosed with mumps. From how Denning describes it, it sounds like life becomes a bit like a science fiction movie.
At Kansas, an infected student is isolated in his dorm room for four days. His roommate is relocated and he's given a mask to wear whenever he leaves the room. Food is delivered to his room to keep him from going to the cafeteria, and his name is sent to the school's administrative office so professors know why he's not in class.
The mumps victim is also asked to spend minimal time in the dorm bathroom -- a place where posted signs read: "Someone in your dorm has mumps. It's important you wash your hands thoroughly."
MUMPS: THE BASICS
-- Mumps is a virus, spread much like the common cold.
-- Symptoms include jaw swelling, fever, headache, body aches and other cold-like symptoms.
-- The disease is very unlikely to be fatal.
-- To avoid the virus, doctors recommend getting enough sleep, eating well, not smoking or drinking alcohol, not sharing food or drink, and washing hands regularly.
-- There is no specific treatment for mumps. Doctors advise drinking fluids, taking ibuprofen and getting rest.
-- Mumps isn't the only disease that's known for spreading quickly on college campuses. Doctors say they sometimes see cases of meningitis, mononucleosis, measles, tuberculosis and chicken pox.
BY THE NUMBERS
-- Number of extra vaccines pledged to the affected area: 50,000, half from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half from vaccine maker Merck & Co.
-- Another recent mumps outbreak: 56,000 cases last year in Britain.
-- How long mumps carriers have to spend in isolation: four days.
-- Reliability of the mumps vaccine: 95 percent effective.