State health officials say about 50 cases of mumps are reported statewide so far this year and nearly 30 of the cases are students at the University of Iowa. U-I spokesman Tom Moore says the Iowa City institution is trying to take a balanced approach to the situation, which is not yet serious enough to be considered an outbreak.
“We want people to be aware and understand there are steps they can take to protect themselves and reduce their risk,” Moore says. “At the same time, we don’t want people to panic. This does happen from time to time on college campuses. This is something we see, not relatively commonly but on a fairly frequent basis.”
Moore says a few cases were reported at the U-I over the summer and since fall classes started, two dozen more cases have been diagnosed. “We did provide training for our residents assistants in the residence halls, here are the symptoms, here’s what to look for, here’s what to do,” Moore says. “We’ve also tried to spread the word both to students and to parents and explain that if someone does come down with the symptoms of mumps, they should isolate themselves.” Symptoms of mumps may include throat swelling, fever, headache, muscle aches and respiratory trouble.
Moore says students are advised to be sure they’ve had two doses of the MMR vaccine and are following good hygiene habits. For those who may have mumps, he says they need to hole up, which in dorms, can be a challenge. “Try to avoid having direct personal contact, coming within three feet of them, as that’s about the spread of the droplets, the virus when people sneeze,” Moore says. “Avoid going to class, avoid going to work if you have a job, and just try to isolate yourself and eventually, the disease will pass.”
Moore has been in touch with his counterparts at the two other state universities and says there are no reports of mumps at Iowa State or UNI.