Temple Univerisity and city health professionals are working to prevent the spread of the mumps on campus after three cases cropped up this semester.
Mumps is a highly infectious viral disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. Last week, Student Health Services sent an email to notify students and staff of the new cases. SHS’s Senior Director Mark Denys said the purpose of this message was to educate the campus.
“In response to these cases, information went out to promote prevention strategies and awareness so that students can take steps to make sure they are protected,” Denys said.
Last year, an outbreak on Temple’s campus affected 171 people. Denys is confident that officials caught the cases early.
“We are hoping we caught the very first wave of the folks with mumps, and last year we caught the second wave, so hopefully that early identitification prevents further outbreaks,” Denys said.
Additionally, the email provided information to students and staff on how to prevent the spread of the virus. Denys said the three students are no longer contagious.
Denys said he would not be surprised if more cases arrise. The virus incubation period is 12 to 25 days, and symptoms often appear 16 to 18 days after exposure. Denys said most of the cases on campus have not been severly ill and have had a very mild case, so they could have come in contact with other students.
“We know that Mumps can spread when anyone comes into close contact with someone who is sick, and you can start spreading the virus before you know you have mumps,” Denys said.
The university health center has been working closely with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to contain the situation. James Garrow, the department’s Communications Director said they actively work to protect the community’s safety.
“We’re constantly on the lookout for outbreaks of new diseases so we regulary work with student health services of universities, primary care practicioners, and hospitals to help us keep an eye on these diseases, and it helps with an early warning system for us,” Garrow said.
Garrow said the most important thing the campus community can do is stay informed and know what measures to take to prevent the spread of mumps and other infectious diseases. Dr. Kristen Feemster, the medical director of Philadelphia’s Acute Communicable Diseases and Immunization Program, also emphasized the importance of immunization.
“Especially on a college campus, college vaccine policies really are important such as immunization requirements to help prevent outbreaks on campus and the community,” Feemster said.
While immunization is the most effective prevention tool, it isn’t perfect.
“It works very well, but there are a small number of people who dont have a great response to the vaccine because it’s 88 percent effective,” Feemster said.
Both Temple University and the Philadelphia Department of Public are making it clear that the number of cases is low.
“I think because there is more awareness and more people who have gotten vacinated since last year that it would keep these few cases from leading to others,” Feemster said.
If someone does have the symptoms of mumps, Student Health Services asks that they contact the office as soon as possible. The classic symptoms are fever, muscle aches, fatique, and swelling of the jawline. Additionally the office suggests if you do test positive for mumps, you should stay away from others for five days.
Temple students (215-204-7500) and employees (215-204-2679) are encouraged to call Temple Student and Employee Health Services with additional questions or comments.