U of I Mumps Outbreak Tops 100 Cases

August 27, 2015

The mumps outbreak at the University of Illinois stands at over 100 cases after the first week of classes. Those with contact with the U of I are being encouraged to get an extra dose of the mumps vaccine.

The number of mumps cases in Champaign County has steadily climbed since the beginning of June, when most of the student population leaves the campus. So far, a total of 93 students have been infected, and 11 more community members have come down with the mumps. Most of them had been vaccinated against the disease.

Now that classes are back in session, Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department administrator Julie Pryde expects that number to increase. She describes the outbreak as a "public health crisis" -- an exasperating one.

"I am extremely frustrated," she said. "Having to waste so much time, so many resources and so much energy to deal with these outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease...That is extremely frustrating to me because we should not be seeing these. We have other issues to worry about."

Pryde recommends getting a booster vaccine to increase "herd immunity" on campus. The health department has been working with the U of I to provide free vaccinations on campus. Additionally, extra vaccinations have been made available at the Public Health District and at McKinley Health Center's walk-in clinic. 

Pryde says the mumps component of the mumps-measles-rubella shot is only 89% effective, leaving even those already vaccinated vulnerable. She blames those who opt out of vaccinations for the recent resurgence in cases.

"They don't know what it was like before these diseases were essentially taken care of," she said. "That's why no one recognizes mumps when they see it. These doctors have never seen it because they shouldn't be seeing it because it was gone for so long."

Pryde herself had mumps at age four. She says she always tells people that she survived, though it was extremely painful. Her friend of the same age did not live.

The outbreak comes at an inopportune time because the public health department is waiting on state funding that hasn't yet been authorized, due to the budget impasse in Springfield. Pryde calls the confluence of state budget troubles, a national turn from vaccination and an outbreak the "perfect storm of problems."

In an email to U of I students, McKinley Health Center Director Dr. Robert Palinkas warned the campus to be mindful of others and keep their distance.

"In consideration of the serious impact this outbreak poses to the campus, students who are considered to be at risk of infection as a result of potential exposure and who lack adequate vaccination protection are subject to restriction (exclusion) of activities within the community, including class, other events and housing for a period which may extend for several weeks," he wrote.

Story source: WILL