New Hampshire health officials report three cases of mumps have been identified in students or visitors to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Durham campus during the past two months, prompting officials to take precautions against the transmission of mumps.

Mumps virus/CDC
Mumps virus/CDC

“We are asking the University community to be aware of the potential for mumps to be circulating on the campus and seek medical care if they develop symptoms,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) State Epidemiologist. “While most individuals who get mumps will only have a mild illness and fully recover within a few weeks, we want to prevent mumps from spreading because it can cause serious health complications.”

Mumps can spread easily, especially among college-age students. There has been an increase in mumps cases nationally with many of these cases occurring in college and university communities. The best protection against mumps is vaccination. DHHS is recommending two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for all school-age children. A second dose of MMR is recommended for students in college settings who have not already received two doses. UNH has a requirement for students to be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine as a condition of enrollment.

Mumps is an acute viral infection of the salivary glands. Symptoms include swelling and tenderness of the cheeks, usually preceded by fever, headache and muscle aches. Mumps infection can also lead to more serious health complications such as testicular infection and inflammation, meningitis, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Transmission occurs through sneezing, coughing, contact with saliva (through sharing of utensils, towels, kissing, sharing cigarettes and drinks, etc.), or from contact with surfaces that have become contaminated with the mumps virus. The incubation period is 16–18 days, and individuals are considered most infectious from 2 days prior through 5 days after the onset of symptoms.

UNH Student Health also recommends the following actions to prevent mumps: Stay home when you are sick; don’t share drinks, cigarettes, or eating utensils; cover your coughs and sneezes; wash your hands often with soap and water and clean and disinfect surfaces.

Mumps is becoming increasingly more common on college campuses in the United States. The disease has been reported on multiple college campuses in 2016 including the State University of New York at Buffalo,Indiana University, University of Kentucky, University of San Diego, University of Southern Maine, Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and Harvard University, among others.

Through Oct. 15, 2,570 mumps cases have been reported nationwide in 45 states and the District of Columbia.