The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana are urgently advising its students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated for MMR due to a mumps outbreak that has recently targeted many of its students.

Even for students who have previously had MMR vaccinations, the Champaign-Urbana Health District and the University's McKinley Health Center are urging everyone to get MMR boosters.

Free MMR vaccinations will be administered to the University's students, faculty and staff who bring valid IDs at the ARC Building, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 6 and 7.

According to reports, Champaign County houses more than two-thirds of 73 mumps cases in the state. Currently, there are already 50 reported cases in Champaign County. Local and state health officials say this can still add up. A huge percentage of reported cases in Champaign County is linked with students at the University of Illinois.

"We continue to see new mumps infections in students at the University and are working to stop the spread," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the IDPH.

The IDPH Director emphasized that the vaccine is not perfect and that immunity starts to develop two weeks after being given the shot, so there is a great benefit for students who have previously received the vaccination.

At the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center, Dr. Robert Palinkas said smaller outbreaks of mumps periodically happen on the campus and that this current outbreak is the largest yet in more than a decade.

University health officials are currently working on isolating students infected with mumps. Palinkas said that those who live near the campus are being sent home to recover and also for measures to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.

Palinkas said they are optimistic that the outbreak will tail off, but he also adds, "... you can't necessarily be certain about that."

Mumps is highly infectious and is characterized by puffy cheeks and swollen jaws. Symptoms, although not everyone gets them, include fever, headache, muscle pain and loss of appetite. Outbreaks usually occur during winter or spring. According to Palinkas, students in campuses are a common target of the outbreak because they are regularly in close contact with one another.

Between 2011 and 2013, for example, campuses in California, Maryland and Virginia reported several small outbreaks of mumps. 

Photo: Ken Lund | Flickr

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