Mumps Outbreak at Penn State Infects More than 80 Individuals


The university reports that infection has subsided in several individuals; however, more people continue to report illness.

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) has reported that the mumps outbreak that started in late January 2017 had reached 77 cases in April. More recently, a local Pennsylvania news outlet, Lancaster Online, reported that, as of May 15, the case count had reached 86.

Although a majority of those who were infected during the ongoing outbreak have recovered, new cases are continuously popping up around campus. In addition, the University Health Services (UHS) urges all those who present with mumps-like signs and symptoms not attend large social functions, so as to control the spread of the outbreak. The UHS also recommends all who have come in close contact with infected individuals “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,” since symptoms usually arise around 16 days after exposure. Infected individuals usually present with “puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw,” due to swelling of the salivary glands. Other symptoms include fever, muscle ache, headache, and loss of appetite.

According to the Penn State’s immunization recommendations, most students, including those living on and off campus, whether they are new, returning, or transfer students, are expected to receive two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or submit results from a blood test proving immunity, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Students exempt from this requirement include exchange students, non-degree-seeking students, World Campus students, and those for whom the CDC recommends not receive the vaccine, including: pregnant women, anyone with previous allergies to the vaccine, and anyone with life-threatening allergy against neomycin. In addition, the CDC recommends individuals with certain chronic diseases inform their physician of their conditions prior to receiving vaccination.

A Penn State press release reports that “most of the confirmed mumps cases are in students who received the CDC-recommended two doses of MMR vaccine;” however, UHS still recommends those who have not received the vaccine or who are not immune to mumps — through previous infection – schedule an appointment with UHS or their primary care physician to be vaccinated “immediately.”

Commenting on the ongoing outbreak at Penn State, Shelley Haffner, infectious disease manager at UHS, said, “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… 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.”

In light of this ongoing outbreak, Penn State will “exclude” anyone who does not provide proof of immunity from campus for the duration of 26 days if they have come in contact with an infected individual. Individuals who have presented with mumps-like symptoms have been placed in isolation based on protocols and recommendations from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In addition, several students have left campus “during the infectious phase of the illness.” UHS has reached out to individuals who may have contracted infection and have already taken necessary steps to exclude those who have been identified as contacts of confirmed cases from the university campus.

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