Students: Use judgment in attending THON in light of flu, recent mumps cases

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With THON fast approaching, Penn State University Health Services (UHS) is recommending that anyone showing symptoms of flu or mumps not attend THON activities this weekend, Feb. 16-18, at the Bryce Jordan Center. In addition, anyone who has been in close contact with a student confirmed or suspected of having mumps is asked not to attend, even if they are not showing symptoms. 

People most likely to suffer from severe symptoms that may result in hospitalization are young children, older adults and anyone with compromised immune systems, such as the Four Diamonds children.

Four cases of mumps have been confirmed by UHS; all four students have since recovered and are no longer considered infectious. No further cases have been reported; University health officials continue to monitor the situation. Symptoms often include tender swollen glands below the ear or along the jawline on one or both sides of the face and neck, headache, fever, and cold-like symptoms.

“Students who have been diagnosed or exposed to mumps should not attend THON. Also, students with the flu or flu-like symptoms should avoid THON to protect spread of the flu to other students and to the THON kids and families, who are the most vulnerable to complications from the flu,” said Robin Oliver-Veronesi, director of University Health Services.

“We are most concerned about the flu — there are far more cases of influenza on campus than mumps, and this year’s flu strains are especially virulent,” said Shelley Haffner, infectious disease manager, University Health Services. “There has been widespread flu activity nationwide this flu season, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In keeping with this trend, we have seen more than 300 lab-confirmed cases of the flu with many more untested cases likely.”

Anyone in the Penn State community who develops symptoms should contact University Health Services at 814-863-4463. Flu and mumps symptoms to watch for are listed below.

UHS advises the following precautions against both flu and mumps:

  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your hand
  • Handwash frequently with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Don’t share food and drinks with others, engage in drinking games, or participate in other activities that may result in saliva exposure

INFLUENZA

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. A person with the flu may transmit the virus 24 hours before symptoms even develop. Symptoms of the flu may include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Flu viruses are primarily spread by respiratory droplets created when contagious individuals cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

While the flu can strike anyone of any age, the very young and very old — as well as pregnant women, those with complicated medical conditions and underlying lung disease — are particularly susceptible.

Health officials at Penn State strongly recommend an antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu, for those at high risk for flu complications. Tamiflu is available at the University Health Services Pharmacy on the University Park campus. At this time, UHS is able to meet the demand for services for students who are diagnosed with the flu.

With weeks of flu activity still to come, the CDC continues to recommend the flu vaccine as an important step in protecting against flu viruses and reducing severe flu complications. Students at University Park can receive the 2017-18 flu vaccine by scheduling an appointment with UHS, or asking their health care provider about the vaccine during any regularly scheduled appointment.

MUMPS

Mumps is a highly infectious disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. While the incubation period is 12-25 days, symptoms often appear 16-18 days after exposure and often include tender swollen glands below the ear and along the jawline on one or both sides of the face and neck, headache, fever and cold-like symptoms. People with mumps are considered infectious from two days before swelling begins through five days after the start of swelling.

For most people, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provide adequate immunity to the infection. In January 2018, the CDC published recommendations for use of a third dose of MMR vaccine for people identified as having an increased risk of contracting mumps during an outbreak, such as those who are in prolonged, close-contact settings like college and university campuses. Also, by college age the vaccine-induced immunity of previous vaccinations may have started to fade, making this population more vulnerable.

University Health Services advises the following:

— All students, faculty and staff should check with their health care providers to confirm receipt of two doses of the MMR vaccine after their first birthday. Anyone who does not have immunity to mumps either through receipt of the two-dose MMR vaccine or a previous mumps infection, should schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. Students may schedule an appointment at University Health Services; faculty and staff should contact their primary care providers.

— All students who have not already done so are urged to request a copy of their immunization information from their private healthcare provider to be faxed to University Health Services at 814-865-6982. During a mumps outbreak, anyone who does not have proof of vaccination may be excluded from campus for 25 days after the last possible date of infection. 

— Although the two-dose MMR series is highly effective for most people, it is important to remember that no vaccine is 100 percent effective for every person. Unfortunately, there is not a good way to determine who has not developed immunity from the two-dose vaccine series. Consider getting a third dose of the vaccine if advised by a healthcare provider.

For additional information, please review the following resources:

Last Updated February 19, 2018