Penn State

Cases of mumps at Penn State continue to increase

It started with just a couple of trouble spots. Not a big deal.

Mumps are like that.

But Penn State’s slight problem has swelled. Mumps are like that, too.

On Monday, the university released new numbers putting what was just two cases, first reported as of Jan. 29, at 38 probable patients. Of those, 17 have been confirmed by lab testing.

The contagious disease’s most famous symptom is swelling of glands on the side of the face or neck, but others include things mistaken for the common cold like headaches and fever. When it gets serious, it can cause swelling in other areas, like the pancreas, brain and spinal cord, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The virus can be life-threatening, but other complications can include sterility, miscarriage and hearing loss.

“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,” Penn State said in a release.

“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.”

Similar treatment is being recommended to students who show symptoms: stay home, avoid contact with others for about five days and don’t do anything that would involve coming in contact with someone else’s saliva.

While the CDC says mumps is no longer common in the United States, Penn State is not the only place they are popping up in 2017.

Since Jan. 1, 1,077 cases have been reported in 37 states.

In 2016, more than 5,000 cases were reported, including a number on university campuses.

“The two largest outbreaks were from Iowa and Illinois, each involving several hundred university students,” said the CDC.

The disease has decreased markedly since 186,000 cases annually in 1967 before vaccinations produced a 99 percent reduction, the Atlanta-based public health institute said.

Penn State warned that vaccinations are not 100 percent effective and still require people to take precautions.

“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,” the university said.

Students who have not been vaccinated or have immunity from a prior infection are being told to schedule appointments for the two-dose shots at University Health Services or with their own doctors.

“If you cannot show proof of immunity to mumps, you may be excluded from campus for up to 26 days,” Penn State said.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce