As the mumps outbreak continues to hit college campuses across the state, Penn is now taking steps to prevent the contagious disease from spreading.
Student Health Service and the College House system at Penn have attempted to halt the spread of mumps by notifying at-risk students through emails and posting flyers with hygiene tips across campus. SHS is also providing free booster vaccines to at-risk students, Campus Health Director Ashlee Halbritter wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
SHS has identified students at risk, including athletes who have visited Temple University recently, and recommended that they get booster shots through a message on their SHS portal.
"If you do get a targeted message from student health, do read it and act accordingly," SHS Director Giang Nguyen said. He added that students sometimes do not remember to get vaccines they are due for.
Three Penn undergraduate students have been diagnosed with mumps as of April 9. The first case was announced in an email on March 27 to students, faculty, and staff. Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said unlike the situation at Temple University, the three cases at Penn are not related to each other. The cases follow an outbreak at nearby Temple University that has affected at least 140 students. Isolated cases have also been reported at Drexel University, West Chester University, and in Montgomery County, Pa.
Mumps is a contagious viral disease with symptoms including fevers, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and swollen salivary glands. The disease is typically spread through saliva, such as sharing food or drinks.
In light of Spring Fling on April 13, several deans of college houses had sent out emails to residents informing them of SHS’s prevention tips and posted flyers around the houses. The emails also encouraged students to avoid shared food or drink containers.
As many college houses host shared food events, some, such as Gregory and Stouffer, are taking precautions to minimize the spread of illnesses through food.
“For our in-house events we are asking our staff to do all food serving, and not allow self-service to further reduce spread of germs,” Stouffer College House Dean Nadir Sharif wrote in an email to the DP.
Gregory College House staff have also posted SHS flyers about preventing illnesses throughout the house and purchased additional food utensils and cleaning supplies for events, Dean Christopher Donovan wrote in an email to the DP.
Penn currently requires all full-time students and students living in campus housing to have two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. A person with two doses of the vaccine is 88% less likely to get mumps than if they went without the vaccine, so it is still possible to contract mumps after having received the mumps vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System do not recommend a campus-wide vaccination at this time, Halbritter wrote. Temple University recently started a free vaccine clinic for mumps which delivered 2,285 vaccines to Temple students, faculty, and staff on its first day.
“This recommendation may change before the end of the semester as we continue to monitor the situation,” Halbritter wrote.
Nguyen encouraged students who suspect they have mumps to self-isolate and avoid infecting others.
"If someone does have symptoms of concern, then they number one should isolate themselves and not expose their classmates and friends," he said. "Don’t go out to social activities and parties if you think that you might have mumps, don't go to class, don't go to group meetings and so on."
Staff Reporter Daniel Wang contributed reporting.
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