FAIRFIELD, Connecticut (WABC) --Connecticut residents are being urged to check their vaccination records and to be aware of the symptoms of mumps amid an outbreak at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and a national increase in mumps activity.
In recent months, several colleges and universities throughout the country have reported outbreaks of mumps, including schools in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and New York.
Eight laboratory confirmed cases have been identified at Sacred Hearth, with nine probable cases with symptoms consistent with mumps and close contact with the confirmed cases.
One additional confirmed case has been identified at a separate Connecticut university after spending time with ill students from Sacred Heart, and additional cases are anticipated to be confirmed among known contacts and cases may occur among other persons not yet identified.
"With the end of the school semester approaching, and students dispersing to other locations for the summer, it is important for Connecticut residents to take steps to protect themselves against this highly-contagious respiratory disease," Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino said. "The best protection against mumps is to get vaccinated. In a school setting, it is especially important to wash your hands often and avoid sharing items, such as cups and utensils. If you develop symptoms of mumps, stay home and contact your medical provider for advice."
A mumps outbreak at Harvard University has affected 40 members of the school community in the last two months, though health officials determined a month ago that all infected students to that point had received a mumps vaccine prior to contracting the infection. All of the current cases in Connecticut were vaccinated against mumps.
Mumps is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is spread through indirect or direct contact with an infected person's nose or throat droplets, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes because of inflammation of the salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.
Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks, however, it can occasionally cause severe complications, especially in adults. Those can include encephalitis, meningitis, deafness, and inflammation of the testicles, ovaries or breasts. Rarely, inflammation of the testicles can lead to decreased fertility or sterility in males.
People with mumps can spread the infection for up to two days before and five days after symptoms develop, so those infected can spread the disease before they feel sick.
Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12 to 25 days after infection.
Children are routinely vaccinated for mumps at 12 through 15 months of age, and again at 4 through 6 years of age.