Students at the University of Illinois are being urged to receive a booster shot of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as part of a plan to limit the spread of mumps cases in Champaign County.
No fewer than 58 cases of mumps have been confirmed in the county and many of those are from students on the U of I campus. Rachel Thompson-Brown, communicable disease investigator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said the majority of the cases the CUPHD has seen were in spite of vaccinations, which can prevent but do not guarantee a person will not become ill.
A memo sent Tuesday to all U of I students, faculty and staff from Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the university’s McKinley Health Center, urged students to receive a booster shot even if they have already received one or two vaccinations of the MMR vaccine. Immunity takes two weeks to develop after receiving a vaccination.
“Most cases on campus had two previous MMR vaccinations,” the memo said.
The McKinley Health Center will operate a two-day special MMR vaccine clinic for students at the ARC Building on Aug. 6-7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. All university students who present a valid ID card will be eligible to obtain the vaccine at no cost.
The university hopes to boost students’ immunity before fall classes begin later this month. There is no concrete answer as to why the mumps have been more prevalent at the university, Thompson-Brown said.
“We’ve been kind of pondering over that,” she said. “If I could take a stab at it, I’d say they’re a really close-knit community, and that would be a big piece of it. As well as sometimes students might be sharing personal items, and that might make people more susceptible.”
The U of I memo also said students “who lack adequate vaccine protection, or those who are considered likely to pass mumps infection to other students, may be restricted from certain university activities, including classes.”
Mumps is an acute viral illness that is spread through droplets of saliva or through the mucus of an infected person. Symptoms usually appear about two weeks after infection and include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and swelling/tenderness of the salivary glands. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, approximately one-third of infected people do not exhibit symptoms. There is no specific treatment for mumps.
According to the CUPHD, children should receive their first dose of the mumps vaccine at 12-15 months and the second dose at 4-6 years. All adults born during or after 1957 should have documentation of one dose while those who are at higher risk — including health care personnel, university students and international travelers — should have documentation of two doses.
To help prevent spread of the illness, people are urged to wash their hands, refrain from sharing eating utensils, clean surfaces that are frequently touched and cough or sneeze into a tissue or sleeve rather than your hand.