Mumps outbreak reported at University of Minnesota

There have been six reported cases of mumps at the University of Minnesota.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- University of Minnesota health officials are warning students about a mumps outbreak on campus, CBS Minnesota reports.

So far there have been six reported cases, campus health oficials say. 

It’s considered highly contagious and the disease is spread by coughing, sneezing or sharing items that you eat or drink.

The symptoms are pretty clear — puffy cheeks, a swollen jaw accompanied by a fever, headaches and loss of appetite.

“I’ve been at Boynton Health for 20 years and we have not had this situation before,” said Dr. Gary Christenson, the chief medical officer at the University of Minnesota. 

Christenson said students are required to be vaccinated for mumps before they come to school, with a few exceptions. But even then, it’s still possible to contract the disease.

Six reported cases of mumps so far at the University may not seem like a large number. But on a campus like this, Christenson said anything over three cases is considered an outbreak.

“One of the challenges of mumps is that for the first two days that someone has it, before they have symptoms, they are already shedding or can be exposing other people to it,” said Christenson.

A couple years ago, the Minnesota Wild got caught in a mumps outbreak. And in February, the mumps again briefly sidelined forwards Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Students believe that if it can spread quickly on a hockey team, it can spread just as quickly on campus.

“If you are at the library or something, this is such a huge school, it’s so hard for things not to be spread around,” said senior Maddie Trenholm.

That’s why health officials are asking students or faculty who have been diagnosed to stay away for five days.

“It’s really hard to predict how long this will be an issue and how many cases we might have,” said Christenson.

And with finals coming up, they are hoping to keep this from spreading as much as possible. The cases the university has seen so far are considered mild. 

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in December 2016 shows that mumps are at a 10-year high -- and colleges seem to be especially hard hit by the contagious virus.  The close quarters on campus make it easy for the disease to spread.