Several cases of mumps reported on UW-Madison campus

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Several cases of mumps have been recently reported in students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to an email sent Tuesday to students from University Health Services.

The outbreak is connected to current outbreaks of mumps occurring at other Midwestern universities, officials said. Many of the cases also occurred in people who had already been vaccinated.

“Immunity is not as great among young adults as it is among young children,” Dr. Sarah Van Orman, executive director of University Health Services, said. “That’s definitely a factor, but there’s also much we don’t know about it yet.”

Mumps is a contagious viral illness that spreads by saliva or mucus, usually when the infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, Van Orman said. Students and university faculty should take preventative measures like frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when infected. Getting vaccinated also reduces your risk of contracting the illness significantly. 

“We want to make sure students understand how to keep this from spreading just like other viruses, including influenza that shows up this time of year,” Van Orman said. 

Despite its similarities to the flu virus, there is no way to treat the mumps, though those who do contract the illness usually make a full recovery.

“That’s one of the reasons why we don’t want it to spread, Dr. Van Orman said. “In those rare cases where there’s complications there’s not a lot we can do for people so we want to reduce the number of cases that we have.”

University Health Service officials, however, say that for most students the risk of contracting mumps is small and the risk of complications from the illness is negligible.

UW-Madison also saw a mumps outbreak in 2014, when more than a dozen students were diagnosed during the spring semester. 

Information about mumps can be found online.