The health department in Boone County has launched an investigation to determine the origin and cause of a mumps outbreak that may have affected 15 people so far in Columbia.
Seven of the first cases were University of Missouri students ages 20 to 23, a health department official said. More than 13,000 students have been on campus for summer sessions, which end Friday. Thousands more students will begin moving onto campus in less than three weeks for fall classes, which begin Aug. 24.
The first case of the communicable disease was reported to the health department last week. So far the department has reported seven confirmed cases and one probable case and said Thursday that there are seven more possible cases pending laboratory testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A team of epidemiologists and experts in communicable disease from the health department is investigating the outbreak but said it is a long process and could take weeks before any conclusions are reached.
Students, faculty and anyone who visited the campus for summer welcome programs have been notified about the outbreak. Doctors have been put on notice to report to the health department any cases believed to be mumps.
MU officials said they don’t recall having a case of mumps on the campus in recent memory. Health department spokeswoman Andrea Waner said there hasn’t been a case in Columbia in at least five years.
“We encourage all of our students, prospective students and visitors to assure vaccinations are up to date. MU requires that all newly enrolled or readmitted students born after Dec. 31, 1956, have a two-dose MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination,” Scott Henderson, assistant director of the MU Student Health Center, said in a statement this week.
The MMR vaccine is 88 percent effective, Waner said.
Symptoms include fever, earache, headache, swollen glands in front of and below the ear, and swelling under the jaw. Men may experience swelling of the testicles, and women may experience swelling of the breasts and ovaries, which might cause abdominal pain. People with mumps may feel body aches, fatigue and pain while chewing.
“Most mumps cases do not lead to serious complications,” Waner said.
The health department recommends that people check to be sure their vaccinations are up to date. Two doses are needed to be protected against the virus. Most people would have had their first MMR vaccination at 12 to 15 months old and a second before starting kindergarten.
Anyone exhibiting symptoms of the disease is advised to see a doctor right away.
“If a student comes to the Student Health Center exhibiting symptoms, they would be advised to go home and stay isolated. It is an infectious virus,” said university spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken.