CHAMPAIGN — Nine University of Illinois students have become sickened with mumps in an outbreak that began just after spring break and has continued with about two new cases a week.
Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the UI's McKinley Health Center, said most of the ill students have been sent home to be isolated and recover with their families, and he expects to continue seeing about two new mumps cases on campus through the end of the school year.
There is also a UI staff member who may be a 10th case of mumps, Palinkas said.
All mumps cases at the UI have been clinically diagnosed and await lab confirmation, and all nine of the students had been vaccinated for mumps, according to Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Epidemiologist Alwais Vaid.
The downside about the mumps vaccine, Palinkas said, is that it's effective in the 80 percent range, so there are still thousands more people on the UI campus who could get sick.
The recommended two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective at preventing mumps, and one dose is 78 percent effective.
Some of those local cases are part of a 65-case mumps outbreak reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Most of those cases have been in Morgan County, with 40 cases, and Sangamon County, with 12. The other 13 mumps cases are in Fulton, Greene, Cook, Will and Champaign counties, but the numbers are still preliminary, and not all of Champaign County cases are counted in the 65, according to state public health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.
The 65 cases in Illinois to date this year compare to 26 during all of last year and 32 in 2012. Most cases involve adults, unvaccinated children and children who weren't fully vaccinated, according to the state.
No longer common in the United States, mumps is a contagious disease. Patients who become sickened must be isolated for about a week to keep from infecting others while they're getting better.
"We've had outbreaks of mumps in the past. It's not that unusual, but we haven't seen them in quite a while," Vaid said.
There isn't a specific treatment for mumps, but most people have an uncomfortable week with facial swelling and discomfort, Palinkas said. Oftentimes people are more worried about the change in their appearance than the discomfort, he said.
"Most students just want their faces to go back to the normal configuration," Palinkas said.
Protection against mumps is given in a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Children receiving their MMR vaccine on schedule get the first dose from ages 12-15 months, and the second dose from ages 4 to 6.
While the vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, Palinkas said unvaccinated people can run the risk of more serious side effects if they become ill.
He characterized the UI mumps outbreak as "smoldering," compared to the larger mumps outbreak at Ohio State University.
As of Friday, there were 278 mumps cases reported in Franklin and Delaware counties in Ohio, and 165 cases had been linked to the Ohio State outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The good news for the UI, he said, is a large number of its 45,000 students have had the full MMR vaccination. There are 237 who haven't been vaccinated, with some students exempted from vaccination for religious or medical reasons, Palinkas said.
He also said the UI administration has been very supportive of isolation for students with contagious diseases, which helps get them out of high-density living environments.
3 things to know about mumps
1. Mumps is a viral infection spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It can also spread through shared items touched by an infected person.
2. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen and tender salivary glands.
3. Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program was launched in 1967, there were about 186,000 annual cases of mumps in this country. Since then, there has been more than a 99 percent decline in U.S. cases.