INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – A contagious and infectious virus is spreading on college campuses around central Indiana, even attacking the immune systems of those who have been vaccinated.
“I’m a little nervous, I have actually been cleaning some of my door handles at my frat house and using my Clorox wipes,” says Butler student Christian Beachum.
Nine students at Butler, four students at Indiana University in Bloomington, and one student at IUPUI have been diagnosed with the mumps. The mumps is a viral infection in the salivary glands that causes puffy cheeks, a swollen jaw, and other flu like symptoms.
“The students live close together, so it is definitely the perfect storm for the spread of a virus like mumps,” says Dr. John Christenson an infectious disease specialist at IU Health.
Health officials say the spread of mumps at three different college campuses are considered separate outbreaks. Infectious disease experts believe more cases of the untreatable illness will pop up again at Butler, IU Bloomington, and IUPUI.
“These universities are doing the best that they can to identify people who have symptoms of mumps, so they can put them into isolation,” says Dr. Christenson.
One of the reasons mumps spreads so rapidly is because it can be contagious for up to two days before and five days after the person starts to feel sick. If you have had your measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine which is 80% effective…you are still at risk.
“It is not effective in everybody. 20-25% of people who get the vaccine will not develop protection against mumps,” says Dr. Christenson.
Most people have had their MMR vaccinations before they head to kindergarten. But, like the flu virus it does not work on everyone’s immune system and may become less effective around college ages.
Now, the Marion County Public Health Department is requiring all students, faculty, and staff receive a free MMR booster vaccine. The booster is a third dose of the vaccine that will give students an extra layer of protection against mumps.
“It consists of the same vaccine that we have given them in the original MMR vaccination,” says Dr. Christenson.
As Butler continues to work each day with the health department, students diagnosed with the mumps have been isolated.
“They are somewhat confined to their residential environment and their rooms and we do what they can to support them. Of course their RA’s are always making sure they are okay,” says Levester Johnson, VP of Student Affair at Butler University.
Butler University is also disinfecting areas where the virus may be living. Like railings, door handles, classrooms, and dorms where the infected students are living.
“I try not to touch my face and wash my hands before I eat. There is only so much that you can do to stop it,” says Butler student Delaney Hartman.