Message to Lehigh Community Regarding Mumps

The following message was sent to the campus community on August 21, 2019.  

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

We are writing to make you aware that a student who arrived at Lehigh on Sunday has been diagnosed with mumps, based on a positive test result that we received from the Pennsylvania Department of Health this afternoon. The student presented to the Lehigh University Health and Wellness Center on Monday and was evaluated and tested. Out of an abundance of caution, the student was immediately placed in isolation until test results came back.

The student will remain in isolation until Saturday. That time frame is in line with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Bethlehem Health Bureau. We have also been working with the Dean of Students office and Housing Services to make sure that the student's needs are being met while in isolation.

The student has had very limited contact with other individuals on the Lehigh campus, but we will be reaching out to those who may have had even minimal contact while on campus to make sure all proper precautions have been taken.

Mumps is caused by a virus and typically causes pain, swelling and tenderness of the parotid glands. The parotid glands sit in front of the lower front edge of the ear and the swelling often obscures the angle of the jaw. This swelling usually lasts at least two days and can last up to ten days.

  • Fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite often precede parotid swelling by two to three days.
  • The incubation period from exposure to the virus to onset of symptoms is 12 - 25 days, with people typically showing symptoms starting on days 16 -18.
  • Mumps is most infectious from two days before, and until five days after, the onset of parotid gland swelling.
  • Mumps is primarily spread via direct contact from droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks.  The virus may also be spread indirectly when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and then someone else touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose. Mumps is less contagious than measles or chickenpox. 
  • Risk for infection increases with prolonged close contact, with roommates, housemates and intimate partners being particularly vulnerable. The risk for infection is much higher for those who are unvaccinated. 
  • There is no 'cure' for mumps. Bedrest, fluids and supportive care medications are often recommended. Most symptoms resolve within a week or two. 
  • Occasionally, complications such as swelling of the male and female reproductive organs, swelling of the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis, meningitis), pancreatitis and hearing loss can occur.

You can read about mumps in this Pennsylvania Department of Health Fact
Sheet:
https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/Mumps.pdf

More information about mumps can also be found on the website of the Centers for Disease Control at: https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/index.html.

Most students at Lehigh have had both of their mumps vaccines, which are administered as a combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) as part of the childhood recommended vaccines. Lehigh requires that all incoming students provide evidence of two vaccinations against mumps or proof of immunity against mumps. 

MMR vaccines are highly effective and the most effective prevention for mumps infection. However, the two doses of the MMR vaccine do not guarantee full immunity. Although there is a recommendation from the CDC to offer a third MMR during a mumps outbreak, that is not being recommended at this time.

Students can check their immunization history by signing into their secure Patient Portal found on our website, www.lehigh.edu/health. Once logged in, students can simply hit the 'Immunizations' tab followed by the 'Print History' button.

Students who have not received their mumps (MMR) vaccines should contact the Bethlehem Health Bureau at 610-865-7083 to schedule a vaccination. Students can also contact their primary care physician's office to schedule vaccination there. In the event of an outbreak, students who are unable to provide evidence of two mumps vaccinations can be excluded from campus until 25 days after the last case of mumps.

Students who have immunocompromising conditions or are on immunocompromising medications who may be particularly susceptible to infection, should contact their treating health care provider to discuss their particular risk and recommendations.

Students experiencing symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite should contact the Health and Wellness Center at 610-758-3870 to schedule an appointment to be evaluated. As a reminder, these symptoms are also very common with many other viral illnesses and not necessarily indicative of mumps. 

We urge members of the campus community to practice routine precautions to help prevent the spread of illness, which include the following:

  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough into your elbow instead of your hand.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly throughout the day, or use alcohol-based sanitizers.
  • Avoid sharing food and drinks (this includes drinking games) or participating in activities that result in saliva exchange.
  • Stay home from work or class when sick to avoid spreading the illness to others.

We will keep the campus community informed of any additional developments. In the meantime, we encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact the Health and Wellness Center at 610-758-3870 or by email at inluhc@lehigh.edu.

Sincerely,
Ricardo Hall
Vice President for Student Affairs

David Rubenstein
Executive Director of the Health and Wellness Center