More than 12 students at Fordham have contracted mumps, the highly contagious viral illness, since early last week, as the New York City Health Department continues to investigate the rapidly expanding outbreak that has hop-skipped across boroughs and infected the university’s two largest campuses, school officials said.
At least 11 students at the Rose Hill campus and one student at the Lincoln Center campus have been diagnosed with mumps, officials confirmed. Beyond indicating that an additional ” small number” of cases were detected Friday, an updated sick toll has not been made public by Fordham since Thursday.
The first case was seen at Rose Hill in January, but administrators did not notify the university community of any possible threat of infection until Wednesday evening — after eight students had already fallen ill.
An alert was not distributed to students or parents before last week because one case does not always indicate an outbreak will follow, one administrator told Fordham Daily. There seems to be little guidance about alerting the university community or the Department of Health when it comes to campus illness.
The average incubation period for mumps is between 16 and 18 days with a range of 12 to 25 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mumps patients are only contagious for two days prior to developing symptoms and then five days after.
Administrators warned students that “more cases are still possible” Friday afternoon, and told students to warn campus visitors about the potential risk of infection. Still, nearly 2,000 prospective students and parents were on Fordham’s campuses this week, touring and attending a series of informational sessions, according to Patricia Peek, director of admissions.
Bob Howe, a spokesman for Fordham, has declined to answer specific questions about the campus outbreak, as has Kathleen Malara, executive director of the university’s Health Services. Administrators have declined to provide any information about the infected students, including their ages and where they had been living on campus.
Officials said that infected students have either been sent home or have been isolated from other residents. Each of the students with diagnosed mumps had been vaccinated — a requirement of the university. The Health Department says the mumps vaccine is 80 to 90 percent effective.
The Health Center at Rose Hill was open its normal hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., this weekend. The Health Center at Lincoln Center, which is typically closed on the weekends, was open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Though it would appear the three-hour window may not have provided enough time to meet the demand on campus.
One student at Lincoln Center with mumps symptoms was in need of care around 5 p.m. Saturday evening. A security guard told her the center was closed, and suggested she go with a friend to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.
One student with a confirmed case of mumps had recently been working inside the offices of WFUV in the basement of Keating Hall at Rose Hill, according to Chuck Singleton, the radio station’s general manager. The area was cleaned by Facilities and has since been deemed safe.
Luke Homer, FCRH ’14, vice president of health and security, tried to mitigate students’ concerns Thursday evening during Rose Hill’s weekly United Student Government meeting.
“‘Outbreak’ is a very loosely defined term,” he said. “It means one more case than what is usually happening. For mumps, it’s usually zero [cases], so if you have one case it’s an outbreak.”
“If you get [mumps], you’re going to be sick for a week — it’s a little worse than a cold,” Homer said. “Modern medicine is taking care of most of the problems.”
Though the symptoms as defined by the Health Department — which published a statement specific to Fordham’s situation — seem a bit more severe, which include: fever, body aches, headaches and swelling of the salivary glands. But nearly one-third of people who contract mumps do not develop symptoms. Nearly 15 percent of people with mumps contract viral meningitis, which can cause headaches and a stiff neck.
Testicular inflammation for men and ovary inflammation for women are also possible symptoms of mumps. Deafness in one or both ears occurs in one of 20,000 mumps cases, according to the department.
Mumps outbreaks have become relatively rare in recent memory. In 2006, a multi-state outbreak infected 6,584 people, many of whom were Midwestern college students, according to the CDC.
“Mumps in college-age men and women usually runs its course without any lasting effects,” Fordham said in a statement. “Nonetheless, the university is trying to see what connection there might be among the affected students while stepping up the frequency and intensity of cleanings in communal bathrooms.”
While the outbreak has been put through the wringer of New York City media, many Fordham students have remained calm, saying simply that they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
“I just know I’m going straight to the Health Center if I see any symptoms,” Johnathon Agostino, a freshman, told The New York Post.
“I’ve been disinfecting like crazy, so hopefully I will not get mumps,” Eddie Kehan, a senior, told CBS New York. “Seems to be pretty wild going on here now, but hopefully it doesn’t spread too bad and we all get better.”
The outbreak did not seem to impact Fordham’s nightlife this weekend as Howl at the Moon, a bar near Rose Hill’s campus, proudly declared itself a “Mump Free Zone.”
Students with symptoms are encouraged to call their campus Health Center before seeking treatment. Rose Hill: (718) 817-4160 and Lincoln Center: (212) 636-7160.