Five suspected cases of mumps reported at American University

Five suspected cases of the mumps have been reported on American University’s campus, the University’s Student Health Center announced Tuesday.

David S. Reitman, medical director of the Student Health Center, originally notified the AU community of one mumps case in an Oct. 26 email. But on Oct. 31, Reitman said the University was notified by the D.C. Department of Health that five students had contracted the infection. Two mumps cases have also been reported at the University of Virginia, the Washington Post reported.

All affected students were isolated for five days after their initial symptoms, Reitman wrote in a campus-wide memo. The D.C. health department is trying to identify any other students who may be at direct risk of contracting the illness, he said.

Mumps is a viral infection that causes “fever, swelling or tenderness to one or more salivary glands, usually the parotid gland that is located along the jaw in front of the ear,” Reitman wrote on Oct. 26.

The most common symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but some people who contract the infection get very mild or no symptoms and may not know they have the disease at all, according to the CDC.

“The virus typically goes away on its own and patients fully recover,” Reitman wrote on Oct. 26. “With few exceptions, all students under the age of 26 at American University have received vaccinations against Mumps, so the chance of spreading to fellow students should be minimal.”

Reitman also offered advice to students on how to prevent the spread of the mumps.

“Mumps is usually spread through contact with saliva, so we recommend that people do not share drinks, food or eating utensils with others over the next few months,” Reitman wrote. “As with many infectious illnesses, frequent hand washing is also an important way to prevent it from spreading.”

The mumps cases come after two other announcements about serious illnesses at AU. On Sept. 7, the University notified students that a case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, was reported on campus. Reitman said at the time that the chance of spreading the bacterial infection was “minimal” because almost all students under age 26 had been vaccinated. 

A graduate student was also diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, the University announced on Oct. 10 in a campus-wide email. Reitman again stressed that the infection, which affects the area surrounding the brain and spinal cord, had a “minimal” chance of spreading to students because “most students” had been vaccinated against meningitis.

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