Campus Life

University Health Services urges respiratory illness prevention

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Health Services (UHS) is encouraging students to follow a series of illness prevention techniques to protect against respiratory illnesses that are frequently seen on university campuses this time of year. Some of these include the common cold, flu, mumps and meningococcal meningitis. 

Although there have been no confirmed mumps cases at University Park this semester, UHS encourages students to learn about mumps and take precautions, especially if they will be traveling to areas with current mumps activity. Temple University in Philadelphia, for example, is one Pennsylvania school that is currently experiencing a mumps outbreak.

Mumps is a highly infectious disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. Symptoms often include tender, swollen parotid glands, located below the ear on one or both sides of the face and neck; headache; fever; and cold-like symptoms. People with mumps are considered infectious from two days before swelling begins through five days after the start of swelling. For most people, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provide adequate immunity to the infection.

Addition information about mumps is available in the following FAQ.

What if I was never vaccinated against mumps?

Anyone who does not have immunity to mumps, either through receipt of the two-dose MMR vaccine or a previous mumps infection, should schedule an appointment immediately to receive the vaccine at University Health Services or from their primary-care provider. If you cannot show proof of immunity to mumps, you may be excluded from campus for up to 26 days. Penn State requires that all undergraduate and graduate students be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella. 

If I was vaccinated, am I protected?

Most confirmed mumps cases are in students who received the CDC-recommended two doses of MMR vaccine. While two doses of MMR vaccine typically provide adequate immunity to the infection, the vaccination does not guarantee protection. According to the CDC, the mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88 percent effective when a person receives two doses. 

What should I do if I contract mumps? What is the treatment?

While there is no treatment for mumps, University Health Services is advising that anyone who develops mumps symptoms get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter pain medication to ease symptoms. Students also are urged to stay home, isolate themselves from others for five days after the start of symptoms, and avoid activities where food or drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure.

To protect yourself from respiratory illnesses in general, follow these techniques:

— Wash your hands regularly.

— Avoid sharing food and drinks, as well as eating or drinking utensils.

— Minimize close contact with persons who have symptoms of respiratory illnesses, such as a cough or sneeze.

— Maintain a clean environment and practice proper respiratory etiquette.

— Get vaccinated. Some respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, can be prevented with a vaccine.

If you have any symptoms previously stated, schedule an appointment with UHS by visiting myUHS, or call the Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. The location, hours and contact information for health services at each Commonwealth Campus can be found on the UHS website

Additional information is available via the following online resources:

— University Health Services, Common Cold

— University Health Services, Health Information and Resources

— Pennsylvania Department of Health, Influenza Fact Sheet

— Pennsylvania Department of Health, Meningococcal Fact Sheet   

— Pennsylvania Department of Health, Mumps Fact Sheet

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mumps: Q&A

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mumps Information

Last Updated April 01, 2019