Mumps spread near IWU

admin

Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor

 

As of Oct. 7, McLean County has 31 confirmed cases of mumps, though that number is likely to increase.

“With any type of viral infection, we see an initial wave, then a drop, then another wave, and a drop,” Debra Adams, IWU’s Director of Health Services, said. “It depends on how well the controls work, how aware people are of the importance of isolation when they are sick. Getting people immunized who are not is often what slows the tide.”

Mumps is a contagious viral infection of the salivary glands that is spread through saliva or mucus. It can be transferred through things like coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing items such as cups or utensils.

People with mumps experience fever, headache, and swollen salivary glands for several days. Rare complications can cause fertility issues. The disease is more easily spread in crowded environments, but it isn’t as easily communicable as the flu or chickenpox, for example.

“For you to contract the virus, there typically is some close contact for a significant amount of time,” Adams said. “You’re probably not going to contract the virus just by being in an elevator with someone who has mumps.”

The Center for Disease Control classifies the mumps as easily treatable and no longer common. Even so, McLean County has seen an uptick in cases as the fall season gets into full swing.

On Thursday, Oct. 1, the McLean County Health Department added Bloomington High School to the list of schools with increase mumps activity. Bloomington High School’s nurse was unavailable for comment, but the school has had three confirmed cases, which is officially classified as an outbreak.

On Sept. 3, IWU’s dean of students, Karla Carney-Hall, sent out an email alerting the campus that the University of Illinois had reported approximately 100 mumps cases. According to Adams, that number has since doubled to over 200 confirmed cases.

“Treatment [at University of Illinois] has been difficult. The disease has not been limited to one certain demographic, which has made it much harder to contain,” Adams said.

After outbreaks at the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Heartland Community College and most recently Bloomington High School, one can’t help but wonder if Illinois Wesleyan University will be next.

 

 

Adams said that the “Wesleyan bubble” might actually benefit the campus, given the limited exposure that IWU students are said to have with the outside world. At this point, the school has not issued an official alert, but students are encouraged to be responsible and proactive.

“Make sure you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine. If you have not been vaccinated, get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Carney-Hall said. “If we all take preventative steps, we can help avoid an outbreak of mumps on our campus. To get an MMR vaccination, contact your student health services or the McLean County Health Department.”

According to the CDC, the MMR vaccine prevents most, but not all cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease. Two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective at protecting against mumps. One dose is 78 percent effective.

Outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings. Even so, the vaccine minimizes the impact and strength of the virus.

“People who have had their two vaccines and are still getting the mumps are having mild symptoms,” Adams said. “People who have had not had their vaccines and are getting the mumps are the ones that have the more severe symptoms, which can include infertility and all the complications that can come with it.”

Students that suspect a mumps infection can stop by Health Services to test for signs of viral infection. Individuals with the mumps are most contagious two days before becoming ill, making it extremely important that students seek treatment as soon as possible.