One University of Maryland student was diagnosed with mumps in September, and two other students had suspected cases, a university health official announced Friday.
Mumps is a virus infection that causes fever and body aches, and is marked by the swelling of the parotid glands, which are in front of the ears. University students are required to be immunized against mumps, a viral infection which is no longer common in the United States.
"This is not cause for alarm, but if additional people have symptoms, they should let us know at health center immediately," said University Health Center Director David McBride. "We want to monitor any spread of mumps on campus."
Symptoms usually start showing within 12 to 25 days after a person is exposed to the virus. To limit the risk of contracting mumps, McBride recommended taking some extra precautions.
"Making decisions about kissing and sharing glasses is always an important thing to think about," McBride said, "Particularly if you know someone with these symptoms."
Quest Diagnostics confirmed the case of mumps on Sept. 18, McBride said. The next day, the Health Center sent out an alert to direct contacts of the student, including classmates and floor mates. In investigating that case, the Health Center identified two other students who had similar symptoms.
"All three of those folks recovered without incident," McBride said. "They were connected, and based on the fact that there was three connected cases, we worked with the county health department to determine that alerting the campus about the situation was wise."
There have been a growing number of mumps cases reported on college campuses in the last two years, McBride said. Dozens of University of Illinois students and more than 100 University of Iowa students were diagnosed with the virus last year.
There was also one confirmed case and two suspected cases at this university last year, McBride said. The health center determined there was no connection between the cases, which were spread out between February and August.
"We sent messages out to direct contacts, but not to whole campus," McBride said. "When you see cases that are connected, then there's more evidence for direct transmission so we want to make sure people are more aware of symptoms and that they let us know if they have symptoms."
The mumps vaccine is not 100 percent effective, McBride said, though people are less likely to contact mumps if they're immunized.
"Typically, if they get the immunization, they have a milder form of mumps if they get it," he said. "Everyone should look at their records and make sure they've had two doses of the MMR vaccine."