The mumps are on the rise in Western New York.
US mumps cases at highest level in 10 years
SUNY Geneseo confirms 12 students have contracted the virus since the first reported case last month. The campus is urging students to be on alert after four on-campus students and eight off-campus students contracted mumps
The number of cases was updated on Saturday, December 10. The school says there are currently three additional possible cases. These students have been tested and are awaiting the results.
Connie Saffan owns the "Alley Cat Purrfect Price" boutique just feet away from the SUNY Geneseo campus. Saffan says she comes in contact with students everyday.
"I'm exposed to a lot," Saffan said. "I cannot afford to get sick. I run my shop by myself and if I'm sick there's no income."
The university says the origin of the outbreak is unclear as the 12 students who contracted the virus already had their vaccinations.
Last year UB and other Collage Campuses around the state reported outbreaks of the mumps on campus.
The news: A preventable outbreak of mumps has spread beyond the gates of SUNY Geneseo, infecting at least 63 people including 45 affiliated with the university and threatening to become the worst mumps outbreak in America since 2006.
"The university cases have occurred in men and women between the ages of 18 and 48, while the community cases have occurred in residents of Erie, Monroe and Gennesee Counties between the ages of 4 and 50," said State Public Health officials in a statement. The department is working with other universities to control the outbreak with vaccination and spreading awareness of infection control measures such as washing hands, covering coughs and staying home during the course of an illness.
Mumps is no small matter. It's a highly infectious airborne disease that causes high fever, aches, fatigue and painful swelling of the salivary glands. Males past puberty have a 15-20% chance of developing orchitis, an extremely painful inflammation of the testicles. However, mumps is easily vaccinated against with a two-dose treatment usually delivered one at 1 year old and again around 4-6 years old.
Mumps outbreaks are not as rare as those involving measles or polio, and even with a second round of vaccination, immunity peaks at about 88%. Those rare outbreaks in the United States are usually linked to the vaccinated but susceptible 12% of the population, those who received just one round of vaccines or those who skipped their vaccines entirely for health or ideological reasons.
"This is a very contagious disease, a respiratory disease that's spread like the cold or the flu," says infectious disease expert Dr. Frank Esper. "We see substantial transmission on college campuses where you bring numerous people together from a wide geographic area in a small space.
"The reason that you're seeing 12 cases instead of 1,600 is because so many people are vaccinated."
Map of mumps outbreaks since 2008. Image Credit: CFR.org
This shouldn't be happening. Mumps, along with measles, whooping cough and chicken pox, is both entirely preventable and making a comeback thanks to the anti-vaccination movement. A 2011 outbreak was widely suspected to be the result of an unvaccinated student coming from Western Europe and around the globe were vaccination is sparse. Plus, one-third of mumps infections are asymptomatic, meaning infected carries could be obliviously walking around as dangerous threats to the rest of the population.
For seniors Jonathan Campbell and Daniela Cregan, they feel there is not much they can do at this point.
"It does make it a little more real that it can affect me," Campbell said.
"Once we got the notification that it was affecting vaccinated students, it seemed to add a little bit more stress but there's really nothing you can do to protect yourself," Cregan said.
Both students work part-time at the Euro Cafe on Main Street near campus. Co-owner Margaret Zdzieszenski says most of the staff are students and the mumps outbreak reinforces the rules she already has in place.
"Personal hygiene when it comes to washing hands and wearing gloves is a must," Zdzieszenski said. "If there is a sign of a cold, sneezing or fever, we send employees home."
"I wash my hands a lot, drink my vitamin C tablets, and stay healthy as much as I can," Cregan said.
Mumps are considered highly contagious and can be spread through coughing, sneezing and sharing food and drink.