NIU mumps cases come from student athletes

10 have the disease, university offering immunizations

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is giving mumps booster shots to several student athletes, and those who have been in close contact with them, in response to an outbreak of the disease first reported at the beginning of the month.

NIU spokesman Joe King said the 10 reported mumps cases have all been among student athletes. The most recent case was reported Friday.

“We became aware of the first case back on Oct. 1,” said King. “The outbreak is currently contained to Huskie athletes. All NIU athletes and those who have prolonged contact with them (boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, etc.) are being given booster shots.”

The boosters are being given free of charge and the university anticipates that as many as 800 people will get them, King said. The Illinois Department of Public Health is providing the inoculations.

The mumps is a viral disease that spreads through such common actions as coughing and sneezing, and through saliva from their mouth, nose or throat, according to the DeKalb County Health Department.

“It is contagious, and it’s most contagious among people who have close contact with each other,” said Jane Lux, administrator for the DCHD. “You do tend to see it in groups that spend a lot of time together, and also in what we call congregate settings.”

She said in outbreak situations, booster shots help keep the disease from spreading.

People who get the mumps may not realize they have it because the symptoms are similar to those of a cold or the flu, according to data on the disease. Common symptoms include swollen glands under one or both ears, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite.

A viral disease, there is no treatment. The two childhood shots of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are about 88 percent effective in preventing a person from getting the mumps, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There is a vaccine for mumps, and in most cases it does offer protection,” said Lux. “While it’s highly effective, it doesn’t provide 100 percent protection against the disease – that’s true of almost all vaccines.”

Also, to keep down the spread of the disease, King said infected students were asked to go home (away from campus) to recuperate. King said NIU provided those who could not with a private dorm room.

King didn’t specify which teams or sports the affected student athletes participate in.

He said it is also not known if those affected traveled to other state schools for competitions where there have been cases of the disease.

The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign has been dealing with a mumps outbreak since spring, with 140 cases reported to date, according to Lux. Recently, there have been other reported cases at Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus, and at high schools around the state.

To date, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website, there are 292 mumps cases in the state.