FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — With finals next week at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, there couldn’t be a worse time for a mumps outbreak.
Seventeen cases have been investigated, with eight of them being confirmed as mumps on the Fairfield campus since an outbreak in late March, according to school officials. The students have all fully recovered.
The mumps is a viral infection and has no cure, experts explained to CBS2’s Lou Young.
“It’s self-limiting,” said Dr. Zane Saul, head of infectious diseases at Yale New Haven Health Bridgeport Hospital. “It’s a virus, so it has to go away and run its course on its own. The symptoms are the classic fever, flu symptoms — but with swollen cheeks because the salivary glands are enlarged.”
It is presumed that the Sacred Heart students who came down with the mumps brought the virus back from spring break. And Sacred Herat is not alone – Harvard University in Massachusetts has more than 40.
“We’re not sure where our first case came from,” said Ann Mavor of the Sacred Heart Wellness Center. “They were somebody who definitely didn’t travel internationally; somebody who’s been in Connecticut, so they got it from somebody who potentially got it from somebody else.”
One freshman told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones the he’s looking forward to wrapping up his first year and getting back home to Brooklyn.
“Two days, and then finals, and then out next week, so hopefully I get out safe and sound,” the student said.
All the affected patients had been vaccinated for mumps twice, as required for college admission. But the vaccination is only 90 percent effective.
Over time, immunization can fade, and some of us become vulnerable — especially if we come into contact with a sick person who was never vaccinated.
“We see these in pockets and we see it show up, and it can always be traced back to a non-immune individual,” Saul said.
Saul said there are too many Americans who are not immunizing their children, making it difficult even for those who have taken prescriptions. An additional case this week prompted the Connecticut Health Department to alert the general public.
“Now that there’s been a case identified apparently at another institution in Connecticut, they decided that they needed to announce it to the state — particularly in light of the fact that school’s going to be letting out in a few days and everyone’s heading home,” said Sacred Heart dean of students Larry Weick.
Although a vaccinated person can get sick, experts said the vaccination, at minimum, reduces the severity of symptoms.
The mumps spreads through saliva or mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can spread by sharing eating utensils or touching surfaces with unwashed hands.
And while highly contagious, the mumps is rarely life-threatening.
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