No mumps panic just yet

Upcoming courses may not be students’ only concern this fall, with Johnson County possibly facing a spread of mumps. Fifteen cases have been reported so far.

The University of Iowa has reported six such cases. Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands and can affect patients for up to two weeks.

The number of mumps cases so far this year isn’t cause for concern, said Doug Beardsley, the Johnson County Public Health director.

“There were almost 2,000 cases of the mumps in Iowa in 2006,” he said. “Usually in the state of Iowa, there are 20 to 30 cases a year.”

The state requires two vaccinations for mumps prior to entry into any public school, including the UI. The vaccines lessen the severity of the disease significantly, Beardsley said.

The UI hasn’t considered a third vaccination at this time, said Loreen Herwaldt, a professor of internal medicine.

“That may be something that the university will consider down the line or that we as a health-care provider might consider for our health-care workers if we start seeing a lot in the community and we see a lot of patients coming in,” she said.

The University of Illinois did offer the third vaccine at no charge earlier this month following a reported 68 cases on its campus.

“We don’t meet the criteria right now that [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] would use to say it’s an outbreak,” Herwaldt said. “We would probably need some additional cases before that would happen.”

UI junior Kaylee Purdy, who lives off campus and had mumps at the beginning of August, said she had to be isolated while the illness ran its course. She has not had the third vaccine.

“We just didn’t share things,” she said, referring to her roommates. “I wouldn’t sneeze or cough or anything or be by them that much.”

Purdy missed a few classes and work as she recovered. She said the mumps hurt most in the morning with a lot of pressure, leading her to eat soft foods. She recommended taking a painkiller in the middle of the night to help prevent the issue.

“I felt fine,” she said. “Other people could probably feel different, but I didn’t feel sick or anything.”

At this time, the UI’s focus is on informing the university community and parents about the virus. Herwaldt suggests people practice proper hand hygiene and to not share food or drinks.

“If you know somebody who’s sick with any of these symptoms, staying at least 3 feet away from them [will help] because in general, the virus doesn’t travel very far,” she said.

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