Campus community urged to remain vigilant as mumps cases continue

April 13, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since Jan. 29, Penn State University Health Services has investigated 77 mumps cases. Many of these students have since recovered and returned to classes.

“While many students who contracted mumps earlier this semester are no longer infectious, we are still continuing to see several new cases each week on campus,” said Shelley Haffner, infectious disease manager at University Health Services. “It is important that everyone take steps not only to protect themselves from possible exposure, but also to prevent exposing others should they develop symptoms.”

With the onset of warmer weather, University Health Services is recommending that anyone showing symptoms of mumps not attend large social functions, such as the Blue-White Game on April 22, in an effort to stop further spread of the disease. In addition, anyone who has been in close contact with a student with mumps is urged to avoid large social activities, especially where food or drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after exposure and 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.

Mumps is a contagious disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. People with mumps are considered infectious from three days before swelling begins through five days after the start of swelling. Anyone who has experienced symptoms is urged to contact University Health Services at 814-863-4463 or a local health care provider immediately.

While two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine typically provide adequate immunity to the infection, the vaccination does not guarantee protection.

Students who have not already done so are advised to have their private health care provider fax a copy of their immunization information to University Health Services at 814-865-9309. During a mumps outbreak, people identified as a contact of a mumps case will be excluded from campus for 26 days after the last possible date of exposure if they cannot provide proof of immunity.

For more information about the current mumps situation at University Park, including steps members of the campus community can take to protect themselves and those around them from exposure to mumps, see the FAQ below. Additional guidance is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

What is mumps? What are the symptoms?

Mumps is a serious contagious disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. Mumps 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. Complications from mumps, although rare, can include inflammation of the testicles, ovaries, breasts and/or brain. Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks.

How can I protect myself from getting mumps?

Mumps is passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. Students are urged 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. In addition, frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette are encouraged to help prevent spread of the disease.

What if I was never vaccinated against mumps?

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 immediately to receive the vaccine at University Health Services or from their primary-care provider. If you are exposed to someone who has mumps and cannot demonstrate proof of immunity to mumps, you will be excluded from campus for up to 26 days after the last possible exposure.

If I was vaccinated, am I protected?

Most of the confirmed mumps cases are in students who received the CDC-recommended two doses of MMR vaccine. While two doses of MMR vaccine typically provide adequate immunity to the infection, the vaccination does not guarantee protection. According to the CDC, the mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88 percent effective when a person receives two doses.

What should I do if I contract mumps? What is the treatment?

While there is no treatment for mumps, University Health Services is advising that students who develop mumps symptoms get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter pain medication to ease symptoms. Students are also urged to stay home, isolate themselves from others for five days after the start of the symptoms, and avoid activities where food or drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure. If you have symptoms, it is important to notify University Health Services or another health care provider to be evaluated.

What is Penn State doing to stop the spread of mumps?

Students who have developed mumps symptoms have been isolated in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health protocols and recommendations, and several of these students have left University Park and returned home during the infectious phase of the illness. University Health Services staff have been in touch with those students who have been in close contact with any confirmed or probable mumps cases. We have excluded students from campus who were identified as a contact of a probable or confirmed case of mumps and could not provide proof of vaccination, in an attempt to stop the disease from spreading. In addition, University Health Services held an MMR vaccine clinic March 23 in the HUB-Robeson Center at University Park.

  • Penn State Student Health Center

    The Student Health Center on Penn State's University Park campus.

    IMAGE: Patrick Mansell
Last Updated April 20, 2017