University of Illinois at center of mumps outbreak
Two-thirds of mumps cases in Illinois can be found on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. There are currently 60 reported cases, but health officials worry that number could increase as students start heading back to school for the fall semester.
Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness that spreads through saliva or mucus when the infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, shares food or touches the same objects as others. It is known to spread faster in schools and on college campuses because students are in close contact with each other. While outbreaks happen periodically, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that this is the largest number of cases they have seen in more than a decade.
Although most children are vaccinated with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, they are still at risk of contracting the virus, says Dr. Robert Citronberg, an infectious disease physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
Dr. Citronberg offers some advice to parents about how to help keep their children healthy as they head off to college:
- Check children’s immunization records to verify all vaccinations have been completed.
- Warn them about the signs and symptoms of the mumps. The most common symptoms include: swollen jaw and salivary glands, fever, headache, muscle ache, tiredness and loss of appetite.
- Find a doctor on campus they can see if symptoms occur.
- Discuss good health practices such as not sharing drinks or food, and washing hands often.
Like any virus, complications can occur if not treated in a timely matter. If a parent thinks his or her child has the mumps, see a doctor right away. If treated promptly, those infected should be able to go back to school and resume normal activities within a week, Dr. Citronberg advises.
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