The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed nine cases of mumps on campus this fall and are investigating other possible cases, according to an ADH public health directive released Friday.
In a letter addressed to UA students and faculty, officials urged students who are not immunized against mumps to avoid attending classes and activities for 26 days or get vaccinated immediately.
Mumps is a contagious, untreatable disease spread through saliva, which can be transferred by touch or through the air due to coughing, sneezing or talking. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen salivary glands. Most people show symptoms 16-18 days after infection and recover within two weeks.
In some cases, mumps can cause more severe complications such as deafness, according to the CDC. Adults are more likely than children to become seriously ill with mumps, and, in rare cases, the disease is deadly, according to the ADH. The largest mumps outbreak in the U.S. between 2015 and 2017 occurred in Northwest Arkansas in August 2016 and resulted in nearly 3,000 cases, according to the CDC.
The mumps, measles and rubella vaccine is the best tool to prevent mumps, according to the directive. Unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to contract the disease than those who have received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, according to the ADH.
University employees contacted the 407 students at the school who are not properly vaccinated.
Friday’s letter directed all Arkansans to get up-to-date on their MMR vaccine. For children younger than six, this means one dose at age 12 to 15 months, and a second dose at age four to six years. For children seven to 18 and adults born after 1957 who have not been vaccinated, this means two doses, the second of which is taken a minimum of 28 days after the first. People who have already received their two doses do not need additional shots.
Anyone showing symptoms of mumps should not go to school, work or public places and should call their doctors to tell them they might have mumps before going to the clinic, according to the directive. The ADH is working with university officials to monitor the outbreak and keep students informed.
For more information on the outbreak or to schedule an appointment, students can contact PWHC at 479-575-4451. Information on the MMR vaccine and immunizations for other infectious diseases is available from the CDC.