Mumps outbreak at Fordham University spreads to two of its campuses

Posted at 8:18 PM, Feb 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-20 20:18:14-05

ROSE HILL, The Bronx (PIX11) – A mumps outbreak at Fordham University has now spread to two of its campuses, and the number of people infected, while a small segment of the university community, has increased by at least the same factor every day this week since the President’s Day holiday.

Mid-afternoon Thursday, university officials released a statement saying, in part, “the University community was notified that there has now been one case of suspected mumps reported at the Lincoln Center campus, and four new cases at Rose Hill,” the university’s flagship campus in the Bronx, “bringing the number of cases to 13 University wide” this week.  There have been 14 cases reported since January.

Students are required to be inoculated with the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine before registering at Fordham, but the vaccination is not a full guarantee against contracting the virus.

In January, according to statements from the university, one student was confirmed to be infected with the virus, which has flu-like symptoms and can swell glands in the jaw and throat area.

Then, on Tuesday, multiple students reported being symptomatic.  Through Wednesday evening, seven more students reported being sick.  Thursday morning saw two more added to that number.

Then, late Thursday afternoon, Fordham’s administration reported the four more cases, including one at its Lincoln Center campus.  That brings the total number of cases since January to 14.

The Fordham University administration is not making on-camera statements about the situation.  Instead, it’s chosen to send out emails alerting students to the problem and listing precautions they can take against the virus, such as washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer.   The mumps is spread through contact with saliva and sneeze droplets.

However, the emailed alerts and prevention warnings are, in some cases, spreading more poorly than the virus itself.

“I don’t check emails all the time,” student Kira Forester told PIX11 News at the Bronx campus, “but it wasn’t that big of a deal, [the university] didn’t mark it as important or anything.  That’s surprising that they didn’t make a bigger deal about it.”

Another student, Kevin Noyola, was among a larger group of students PIX11 encountered randomly at the Bronx campus, who said that the information provided by the university had been helpful.

“You’ve got to have common sense,” Noyola said.  “Have sanitizer, take care of yourself.  The [university] health center must be on top of things and they need to know how to spread awareness, how to take care of oneself.  If they do that, I think we’ll be okay.”

Dr. Marguerite Mayers is a pediatric infectious disease expert at Montefiore Children’s Hospital, who pointed out to PIX11 News that with a standard series of two MMR inoculations, up to 90 percent of people who get vaccinated become immune to the mumps virus.

However, she said, “There’s still a small group of individuals who don’t get any protection to vaccines, and that group represents a population that’s susceptible.  So when mumps viruses are brought into the community, it will spread.”

Dr. Mayers also said that in a small minority of cases of people vaccinated when they were children, “the antivirus may have waned” by the time they reach adulthood.  It is possible that some of the people infected are in that group.

Mayers also pointed out that the mumps are almost never fatal.

The university said in a statement that “all the students with suspected mumps infections have either returned home or have been isolated from other residents during the infectious phase of the illness.  Typically, mumps patients are contagious for two days prior to the outbreak of symptoms and five days after.”