Possible Mumps Cases at Penn State Now at 27
As of Tuesday, Penn State's University Health Services has investigated 27 "suspected, probable or confirmed mumps cases" at the University Park campus.
Six cases of those cases have been confirmed by lab tests to be mumps.
The university updated a news release from Feb. 23, when it reported 19 cases had been investigated and four confirmed. The first cases of mumps were confirmed on Jan. 29, and since then UHS has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Students are advised not to share food or drinks and not to engage in “activities where drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure,” according to the news release from UHS. Students planning to travel for spring break are being advised to be extra cautious.
Anyone who starts to experience mumps symptoms while traveling should avoid returning to campus for at least five days after the start of swelling. Travelers who experience symptoms also are urged to isolate themselves from roommates and travel partners and contact a nearby health provider.
Symptoms of mumps include tender swollen glands below the ear or along the jawline, headache, fever, and cold-like symptoms, and those who contract the virus are infectious for two days before the swelling begins through five days after the start of the swelling.
Students who have not received two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine should schedule an appointment with UHS as soon as possible. People identified as a contact of a suspected, probable, or confirmed case of mumps will be banned from campus for 26 days after potential exposure if they do not have proof of vaccination.
According to the UHS website, all incoming students are required to provide proof of MMR vaccination before arriving on campus. Penn State spokesman Justin McDaniel said that beginning last fall, the university moved away from an online self-reporting system to a more rigorous process that requires verification from a medical provider.
He said the new process applies to all incoming students and students living in on-campus housing. Students who failed to submit immunization records had a hold placed on their ability to register for spring 2017 classes.
But, McDaniel explained there are students who came to Penn State under the old self-reporting system.
"Some upper-class students living off campus entered the University under the prior system," he said. "University Health Services is advising students to receive the MMR vaccine now if they have not already done so."
And while the recommended two doses of the MMR vaccine usually provide adequate immunity, they don't provide 100 percent protection. According to the CDC, the vaccine is about 88 percent effective in preventing mumps.
"We are seeing mumps cases in students who received the CDC-recommended two doses of MMR vaccine after their first birthday," McDaniel said. "The University of Illinois experienced the same during an outbreak on its campus in 2015-16, when the CDC found that 73 percent of mumps patients had received two doses of the MMR vaccine."
On Friday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy said the health department is working with Penn State to investigate the cases.
“In light of these confirmed mumps cases, and with spring break fast approaching, it is very important for PSU students to avoid sharing food and drinks with others and to monitor their overall health,” Murphy said in a statement. “Students who have been diagnosed with mumps or are experiencing symptoms of the virus should check with PSU Health Services before returning to the State College campus.
“All PSU students and visitors should also take steps to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date, as that is the best way to prevent getting the mumps virus. The Wolf Administration is committed to protecting the health of Pennsylvanians, and reminds individuals of all ages of the importance of getting recommended vaccinations.”