Mumps making comeback on campus

By Gary Brode |

Published 04/29 2014 09:58AM

Updated 04/29 2014 10:06AM

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- A once rare disease is becoming more common on campus. There have been ten cases of the mumps at UI since the end of March and those numbers are expected to increase. WCIA-3's Gary Brode finds out how officials are working to avoid its spread.

It's been in other parts of the state and now it's here. Nine students have been diagnosed with the disease since the end of spring break and now one employee at the university has it. McKinley Health Center isn't calling it an outbreak just yet, but it's certainly becoming a problem.

"I know it's a disease. I know it's not supposed to be around here anymore. That's about all I know."

This student, like many others, didn't know much about the mumps. Surprisingly, some say they've just never heard of it.

"It starts out with a little fever and a lack of energy, but then quickly spreads to a swelling of the face of the angle of the jaw underneath the ear."

Last year, there were 438 cases of mumps in the country. But now, the disease is going around campus. Officials are seeing about two new cases per week and doctors aren't sure why.

"We haven't really found a very clear particular pattern. It has happened in both our domestic and international students."

Some of the cases involved students in sororities and fraternities, but it's not enough of a pattern to pinpoint it.

Robert Palinkas, the director of McKinley Health Center, has another theory.

"I think its part of a greater Midwest activity of the virus. The UI isn't the only campus to see the disease. Ohio State has had more than a hundred cases on its campus."

Palinkas says all of the students with the disease had their vaccinations, although that doesn't guarantee immunity.

"The vaccine does not necessarily give that 100% protection that we would want."

It works about 80% of the time, which Palinkas says is still a very successful rate. Most of the students diagnosed have been sent home. The ones who couldn't go home have been quarantined, but there is still concern.

"We have so many people living in such close quarters and we have a virus that is very contagious."

The symptoms last for about a week. About one in 1,000 could see more serious problems like swelling of organs, brain damage or even death.

Campus isn't the only place where mumps are being found. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports there have been a total of 65 cases around the state. Morgan County has the most with at least 40 cases reported. 12 people have had the mumps in Sangamon County since the beginning of the year.

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