Health officials are recommending that all medical providers and hospitals throughout the Will County test anyone with symptoms for mumps and re-vaccinate those who may be exposed in the midst of an outbreak at Lewis University.
The Will County Health Department said a majority of suspected mumps cases at Lewis University involve students who have had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Because of that, they recommend anyone with swollen salivary glands and other mumps symptoms be tested regardless of their shots records. Those who do get tested should also stay home for at least five days while they await the results.
"WCHD officials say one of the potentially biggest mistakes that can be made is to assume that someone with those symptoms has no chance of having the mumps just because they have already had the standard two doses of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine," officials said in a release.
The department also recommended anyone with two previous vaccines who have come into contact with someone experiencing mumps symptoms should get a third shot "as soon as possible."
“When it comes to the mumps, so many of us were vaccinated, so we thought it was eradicated,” WCHD Family Health Services Director Georgia VanderBoegh said in a statement. “But viruses, bacteria, and influenza strains are always adapting so they can somehow get hold of someone again. The battle never ends.”
With one confirmed case and nine potential other cases of mumps, Lewis University said its December commencement ceremony and all related events will be rescheduled for May. The university has also canceled all remaining events through Dec. 28, but class schedules will remain the same.
The university’s president, Dr. David Livingston, said in a letter to students that the decision is “out of a sense of caution and concern for our community and loved ones.”
The Will County Health Department announced a mumps outbreak at the Romeoville campus earlier this week.
As a result, the Illinois Department of Public Health mandated that all students, faculty and staff submit evidence of immunity to the school’s health and counselling services. Those who don’t submit evidence by Monday will be restricted from campus until at least Dec. 28.
Students and staff are being urged to notify their healthcare providers if they become ill or develop swollen or painful salivary glands under their ears, jaw, or on their cheeks. Common symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen glands.
The "very contagious airborne virus" is easily spread by droplets and contact, health officials said.
"An outbreak in an age group such as college students suggests that either today’s mumps strains have evolved to elude the immune response triggered by the vaccine, or that the protection from the vaccine has simply waned over time. No vaccine is 100 percent protective forever," epidemiologist Alpesh Patel said in a statement.
Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should "seek medical consultation," said Dr. Dan Garganera, medical advisor for the Will County Health Department.