8 mumps cases at Stevens Institute in Hoboken

Dr. Sapna Parikh with the story of why mumps can be contracted despite vaccinations.
April 18, 2014 4:44:33 PM PDT
The New Jersey Department of Health is investigating eight cases of confirmed mumps found in students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

"I have two daughters who are a little younger, and yeah it's a little concerning," said Rob Dreeke, a resident of Hoboken for 20 years.

There's concern and confusion among the residents of Hoboken. Most were not aware of the small mumps outbreak at the Stevens Institute.

School officials confirmed that eight students had the mumps, notifying the nearly 7,000 students by e-mail.

"I don't know who's sick or not, but it sounds like they're getting better," said student Andrew Keeley.

Dr. Michael Bessette, chairman of the emergency room at Jersey City Medical Center, treated one of the students.

"She had a classic presentation, the salivary glands on both sides were very swollen and had been for about a day," said Dr. Bessette.

The virus often causes painful swelling of the glands in the cheeks, and in some cases, swelling of the brain, testicles or ovaries. But often, it causes only mild flu-like symptoms.

"Theres 20% with no symptoms at all but still have active virus that they can now spread," said Dr. Bessette.

It spreads like the flu, through saliva, coughing and sneezing. But you're contagious for several days before and after you have symptoms.

In February, Fordham University reported a mumps outbreak with two more cases last week. And in an ongoing outbreak in Ohio, more than 200 people are infected.

"Luckily we just had our little one vaccinated so hopefully its not an issue but it's scarry that it could happen," said Hoboken resident John Franceski, who has a 14-month old daughter.

But almost everyone in all recent outbreaks was fully vaccinated. So why did they still get the mumps?

Because the MMR or measles mumps rubella vaccine is on average only 88% effective at preventing the mumps.

It's the best we have, but not perfect and it's now thought that immunity may lessen over time.

The university says they worked with the health department to take all precautions and clean student areas.

"If your'e especially concerned whether or not you have immunity to the mumps you can see your regular physican there is a blood test they can do to check, and if you're not they can offer you another dose of the vaccine," said Dr. Bessette.

Of the eight students so far, six have fully recovered, and two are recovering at home.

"At Stevens our top priority is the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. Consistent with the procedures outlined by the NJDOH, all students with suspected mumps infection were isolated from others during the infectious phase of the illness and returned to their homes off campus," said Maggie Cunning, Director of the Student Health Services. "There have been no reports of newly symptomatic cases since the initial cases last week."

Cases were found in students ranging in age from 18 to 21 years and all were fully vaccinated with two documented doses of mumps-containing vaccine.

All Stevens' students are required to have full vaccinations before attending the University, including the vaccination for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR). Faculty and staff members who are unsure of their immunization status have been advised to contact a health care provider.

Stevens is encouraging students and staff, or anyone who may have recently visited the campus or had close contact with a Stevens Institute of Technology student/staff member to visit their healthcare provider if they are exhibiting the following symptoms: swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

"The City's Health Department has been working closely with Stevens since the beginning and we are thankful for their responsiveness and proactive efforts," said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. "Every precaution has been taken to ensure the safety of the public. The best way to prevent mumps is vaccination. Members of our community should follow the recommendations from health officials and contact their doctor if they believe they may have symptoms. We will keep the community informed of any new developments."

The New Jersey Department of Health has created a flyer of Frequently Asked Questions regarding mumps: www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/mumps/mumps_public_faq_04172014.pdf