A mumps outbreak is being investigated at Ohio State, where there are currently 13 reported student cases.
OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto sent a message to students, staff and faculty Thursday evening about the cases.
“We are sharing this information with you as quickly as possible, and we are working with health care and public health professionals to ensure we are following best practices. At this time, we also are working to understand the common factors among those who are affected,” the email read.
The email also included the symptoms of mumps and safety tips for the OSU community.
OSU spokeswoman Liz Cook said Friday afternoon the most recent report from Columbus Public Health noted 13 cases of mumps at OSU.
Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health, said Thursday afternoon two cases were reported Wednesday night, and seven cases were reported Thursday. Of the cases, there are four males and five females ranging in age from 19 to 23, none of whom have been hospitalized.
“This is very early on,” Rodriguez said. “Our medical director fully expects that there may be more cases.”
Some of the students live on campus, Rodriguez said, but otherwise it’s unclear how the students might be connected. Rodriguez said Columbus Public Health is currently working on finding people who have had close contact with those who were infected.
Rodriguez said a 30-year-old Columbus man was hospitalized with mumps.
Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It can spread through coughing, sneezing or contact with saliva or mucus.
“This is not an illness that is spread casually … (like) walking by somebody who has the mumps,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said Columbus Public Health recommended the students be isolated to prevent exposure to others.
According to the CDC website, the disease can be carried without any symptoms. Rodriguez said there might be carriers of mumps on campus who have not yet been reported.
Those who are affected by mumps might have swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears or jaw on the side of the face, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and inflammation of the testicles in men, according to the CDC. The website also says there is no specific treatment for mumps, but it is usually gone in a week or two.
Dave Isaacs, spokesman for Student Life, said OSU is working closely with Columbus Public Health.
“We encourage any student who has symptoms, or feel they may have been exposed to the mumps, to seek medical treatment,” Isaacs said in an email.
Some students at OSU, though, said they aren’t concerned they’ll catch mumps.
Chrissy Rawlins, a second-year in Spanish, said she doesn’t feel any more at-risk on campus than she would otherwise.
“My whole life I’ve gone to school somewhere, so I don’t feel less safe, even in the dorms,” Rawlins said.
David Moritz, a first-year in engineering, said doesn’t feel threatened by the outbreak because he lives by himself in Jones Tower.
“I’ve never heard of anybody getting sick there,” Moritz said.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the last outbreak of mumps in Ohio was in 2010, when 15 cases were reported in Lake and Cuyahoga counties.
A 2006 mumps outbreak which began in Iowa drew OSU’s attention at the time, according to Lantern archives. According to the CDC website, there were about 6,580 cases reported nationwide, primarily Midwestern college students living in dorms.
The best way to prevent mumps is a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, according to the CDC website.
OSU students are not required to get an MMR vaccination unless it is a specific requirement for their program, according to the Student Health Services website. Students interested in a vaccination are able to receive one through health services after a screening.
Michael Smith, a first-year in engineering, said he feels secure because he’s gotten a mumps vaccination in the past.
“I’m good with a (small) chance of catching it,” Smith said.
Rodriguez said Columbus Public Health and OSU have the same goals in mind when investigating the cases.
“Their No. 1 priority, like ours, is the health and safety of the students,” Rodriguez said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated March 7 to reflect the most recently reported number of cases.