The Town of Fairfield Health Department is reminding it's residents to check their vaccination records and to be aware of the symptoms of mumps amid an outbreak of mumps at Sacred Heart University (SHU) in Fairfield and a national increase in mumps activity. In recent months, several colleges and universities throughout the country have reported outbreaks of mumps, including schools in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York.
The Connecticut State Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Fairfield Health Department have been collaborating with the SHU Wellness Center to investigate an outbreak of mumps. Eight laboratory confirmed cases of mumps have been identified at SHU. Nine probable cases with symptoms consistent with mumps and close contact with laboratory-confirmed cases have also been identified. One additional confirmed case has been identified at a separate Connecticut university after spending time with ill students from SHU. Additional cases are anticipated to be confirmed among known contacts and cases may occur among other persons not yet identified.
“With the end of the school semester approaching, and students dispersing to other locations for the summer, it is important for Connecticut residents to take steps to protect themselves against this highly contagious respiratory disease,” warned Dr. Raul Pino, DPH Commissioner. “The best protection against mumps is to get vaccinated. In a school setting, it is especially important to wash your hands often and avoid sharing items, such as cups and utensils. If you develop symptoms of mumps, stay home and contact your medical provider for advice.”
Mumps is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is spread through indirect or direct contact with an infected person’s nose or throat droplets, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes because of inflammation of the salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease. Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks. However, mumps can occasionally cause severe complications, especially in adults. Those can include encephalitis, meningitis, deafness, and inflammation of the testicles, ovaries or breasts. Rarely, inflammation of the testicles can lead to decreased fertility or sterility in males.
People with mumps can spread the infection for up to two days before and five days after symptoms develop, so those infected can spread the disease before they feel sick. Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12 to 25 days after infection.
Children are routinely vaccinated for mumps at 12 through 15 months of age, and again at 4 through 6 years of age. Vaccination with MMR is required for school attendance in Connecticut. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that anyone born in 1957 or later who does not have evidence of immunity against mumps should have two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days. People born before 1957 do not need to be vaccinated, unless they work in a healthcare facility. Individuals who cannot verify two doses of the MMR vaccine should contact their health care provider.
If you are vaccinated against mumps, your risk of infection is low. However, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mumps because even fully vaccinated individuals can contract the disease. All of the current cases in Connecticut were vaccinated against mumps.
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of mumps should contact a health care provider. Be prepared to describe your symptoms and when they started and alert your doctor if you think you have been in contact with an infected person. If you are ill with mumps, remain home and away from others, especially unvaccinated infants, people with diseases affecting their immune systems, and pregnant women.
Questions about mumps can be directed to the DPH Immunization Program at 860-509-7929. Additional information about mumps is available on the DPH website at http://www.ct.gov/dph/immunizations/.
To see the announcement sent by SHU to students and faculty about the outbreak: http://www.sacredheart.edu/aboutshu/news/newsstories/2016/april/2016-mumps-outbreak-update.html.
For more information about mumps, visit the CDC’s mumps website at http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/.