The Indiana State Department of Health has reported mumps outbreaks at four universities as Purdue University in West Lafayette becomes the latest school to report an outbreak of the viral vaccine preventable disease.

Indiana counties/Cool10191
Indiana counties/Cool10191

School and local and state health officials are investigating five confirmed or probable cases of mumps on the West Lafayette campus. In addition, the collaboration is working to identify and directly notify anyone who may have been in close contact with these cases, and advises faculty, staff, students and members of the community to educate themselves on the symptoms, transmission and prevention of mumps.

In addition to Purdue, state health officials have reported 45 mumps cases on three other campuses- Indiana University in Bloomington (17), Butler University (24) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) with four.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms for mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides. Mumps is spread from direct and indirect contact with an infected person’s respiratory droplets, which can be transmitted by sneezing and coughing. People with mumps can spread their infections for up to two days before and five days after the onset of symptoms. Anyone with symptoms is highly encouraged to stay home and avoid others to prevent the further spread of illness and to seek care as soon as possible.

Mumps is caused by a virus, so antibiotics are not indicated. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection but can range from 12-25 days. Generally, mumps is a mild illness, and some people may not have any symptoms. While complications and more serious issues can result from a mumps infection, they are generally rare, with a 1 percent to 3 percent complication rate.

At this time, university members are encouraged to check their vaccination records with their primary-care provider and obtain copies if needed. Currently, the best way to prevent mumps is to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR. Individuals born after 1957 who have not had two doses of vaccine or are unable to find their records are encouraged to seek advice from a health care provider or contact the local health department on receiving an MMR vaccine. Persons born before 1957 are considered to be immune to mumps due to the high rate of infection prior to routine vaccination. Two doses of vaccine are only considered around 88 percent effective at preventing infection, so some people who have been fully vaccinated with two MMRs may still contract mumps.

Practicing good hygiene habits – such as regularly washing your hands with soap and water, sneezing and coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and avoiding the sharing of drinks, food and utensils – is a good way to prevent illness and transmission. Additionally, if you believe you may have symptoms of mumps, isolating yourself from contact with others and seeking care as soon as possible could prevent additional spread of mumps.

Students or staff with symptoms – even if they have received a MMR vaccine – should stay home and call ahead before going to an urgent care or the Purdue Student Health Center. If students have concerns about possible symptoms, they should contact the Purdue Student Health Center or their primary-care provider. Treatment for mumps is geared toward alleviating symptoms. Bed rest, a soft diet and a pain reliever for aches are often recommended.