While there have been no confirmed cases of mumps in Ontario County, officials are prepared
State University of New York at Geneseo on Monday reported 12 cases of mumps. At SUNY New Paltz, there have been 63 confirmed or probable cases reported since October, with more under investigation.
As of Monday, Ontario County had had no confirmed cases of mumps, according to county Public Health Director Mary Beer. Last last month, Beer sent out a health advisory — due to the outbreaks at SUNY Geneseo and SUNY New Paltz —to providers including physician offices, urgent care centers, emergency departments, University Health Services and others. It included information on diagnosing, testing, outbreak control and reporting.
Both Finger Lakes Community College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges provided statements regarding concerns over mumps, with neither institution having any cases as of Monday. FLCC has a 99 percent student immunization rate for measles, mumps, and rubella.
“In the event that an outbreak of one of these three illnesses occurs, access to College facilities will be restricted only to those having proof of immunity. Given our high immunization rate, this would affect very few people,” according to FLCC.
HWS responded that “in accordance with New York State laws, all new and incoming students are required to show proof of mumps immunization or provide a signed medical or religious exemption form.”
At Geneseo, the campus is requiring students who have never been vaccinated to leave the campus for a minimum of 26 days. The move is for their own protection, as they are the most at risk for contracting mumps. Eight of the students afflicted live off-campus, while the other four live on campus. It was an off-campus student who was the first mumps patient to become infected back in November. The college is now closely working with local and state health officials to prevent a further outbreak.
Students interviewed at SUNY Geneseo say they are concerned. "It's a little frightening, but I think that it's something that is expected in [a] campus,” said Sarah Ball. “We're out together all the time," she said.
The time of year may also be playing a factor, said student Audrey Button. "You're in the library, especially during the finals weeks, there's so many people in one spot, so just making sure you bring hand sanitizer with you [is important]."
Students say that campus officials have been doing their best to educate them about the virus.
"The first day, they had signs on every door," Ball said. "You knew, you got a phone call, I believe. Like, there was no 'We're trying to hide this.' They want us to stay safe."
Mumps typically brings out flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. In extreme cases, however, it can cause a person to go deaf. Mumps is an airborne virus that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, talking, or sharing utensils with an infected person.
Officials said that in all 12 confirmed cases the students had received two mumps vaccinations, though that does not mean they had immunity. The strength of the vaccine could decrease over time, and other strains of the virus could also be a factor.
So even those students who have been vaccinated, like Molly Byrne, are taking extra precautions such as washing hands and not taking sips of other people's water bottles.
In the meantime, campus officials are urging all members of the SUNY Geneseo community to verify that they have received the recommended doses of the vaccine. For updates and information, people are directed to https://www.geneseo.edu/mumps.
In Ontario County, people may visit ontariocountypublichealth.com or call 585-396-4343.
Includes reporting by Messenger Post news partners News 10NBC.