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Mumps spreading across Midwest college campuses

May 8, 2006

KALAMAZOO--With about 2,000 cases reported and counting, the United States is experiencing its largest outbreak of mumps since the 1980s, and many of those taken ill are college students, almost exclusively in the Midwest.

Most of those taken ill are in Iowa, where the outbreak was first reported in December 2005, and in five of the states surrounding Iowa. A few cases were reported in the past two weeks as far away as Franklin & Marshall College in eastern Pennsylvania.

No case of mumps has been reported in Kalamazoo, but students, faculty and staff at Western Michigan University should take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease, according to officials at WMU's Sindecuse Health Center.

Mumps is a viral illness that causes fever, tiredness and swelling of the salivary glands, located under the ears. Mumps is rarely life threatening, but it is uncomfortable and can occasionally cause serious complications, especially when accompanied by high fever.

A very contagious virus, mumps is spread by droplets of saliva from coughing, sneezing or kissing. It also can be contracted by touching a doorknob or other object that has been exposed and then touching your eyes or mouth.

WMU students should review their vaccination records--small yellow booklets--to determine if they received the vaccinations for mumps. Students should have received two separate "MMR" shots. The two-shot combination is reported to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing infection. Those who have not received both shots and those who are not sure about their vaccination status, should go to the Sindecuse Health Center and receive a vaccination.

Before an effective vaccine was developed in the late 1960s, there were typically 100,000 to 200,000 cases of mumps reported annually in the United States.

For more information, visit www.wmich.edu/shc/alerts/mumps.html

Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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