Mumps outbreak leads to precautions at Sacred Heart University - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Mumps outbreak leads to precautions at Sacred Heart University

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Eight laboratory cases have been identified at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. (WFSB photo) Eight laboratory cases have been identified at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. (WFSB photo)
Sacred Heart University officials talk with media after cases of mumps on campus. (WFSB) Sacred Heart University officials talk with media after cases of mumps on campus. (WFSB)

An outbreak of the mumps on the campus of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield has lead to the school taking precautions.

The Department of Public Health reminded residents to check their vaccination records and to be aware of the symptoms. It also said there's been a national increase in mumps activity.

Since then, eight laboratory cases have been identified at SHU, according to the DPH. There are 17 total suspected cases, nine of which are considered probable cases due to mumps symptoms. Some of the cases were from close-contact with patients of the laboratory-confirmed cases.

"We are treating this as an outbreak that's highly contagious," said Anne Mavor, director of health services.

Additional cases are anticipated from patients not yet identified.

Students said they only have about a week's worth of classes left, so they're not worried about getting sick.

"I'm not that concerned because I think the school does a good job keeping us informed and if we do get them we know what to do," said Faye Kenajian, a Sacred Heart sophomore.

The school sent out alerts and emails.

“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.”

Outbreaks have been reported at several colleges and universities in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and most recently at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

One other case was also confirmed at a separate Connecticut university. However, that student spent time with ill students from SHU, the DPH said.

"There's a student at another college that visited Sacred Heart and they feel that now that school has come to the end, we should notify the public," Mavor said.

Eyewitness News was not told which other college was involved because of the HIPAA law.

DPH Spokeswoman Maura Downes said besides the student who spent time with ill students from SHU, there were no other cases reported at Connecticut universities. 

The DPH said it has been collaborating with the Fairfield Health Department and the SHU Wellness Center to investigate the outbreak. Two cases were first reported on March 22.

"We've been following the guidelines from the state of Connecticut," Mavor said. "We notified our students and have been doing weekly updates and alerts about mumps."

The school said it updated students about the situation on Thursday.

"We've gotten pretty much all the information we need [like] where it's happening and what to do if you get them," Faye said. 

It said there is a state law that students must receive. It said the students were vaccinated, but it only works 90 percent of the time.

The DPH said mumps is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is spread through indirect contact with an infected person's nose or throat droplets. All an infected person has to do is cough or sneeze for someone to come in contact with the droplets.

Mumps is known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, which is due to the inflammation of the salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides.

Other symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite.

Most people recover after a few weeks.

With the potential to spread off Sacred Heart's campus, officials are urging people to get vaccinated if they aren't already.

"Our students don't just live on campus, they live in the campus, they go out, they use resources in the community," Mavor said. "It's potential." 

Here's a fact sheet about the mumps from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

For more information about the mumps outbreak at Sacred Heart University, see the school's announcement here.

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