Living with the mumps

When an illness going around Syracuse University requires quarantine, it can sound scarier than it actually is.

Syracuse University has no plans to shut down campus no matter how many cases of mumps that break out. The reason? The mumps virus is not a life-threatening illness.

Though highly contagious, mumps is an “easily containable disease,” according to SU's Office of Health Services website. Vaccinations and healthy habits can severely limit the outbreak.

"There is no reason to leave campus and no reason to be alarmed,” the site says.

“It’s boring having to be by myself. I watched a ton of Netflix and just did a ton of homework.”
Taylor Bennett, quarantined with the mumps

While vaccines help protect against the mumps, they do not guarantee complete immunity, said Karen Nardella, medical director of SU's Health Services, in a campus-wide email. Every student who has contracted the disease was properly vaccinated.

There are currently 24 confirmed cases and 26 probable cases of the mumps, according to the Health Services website as of Oct. 16.  Probable cases are cases that show symptoms but still need lab testing verification.

One Syracuse student knows first-hand just how ineffective the vaccine can be.

Sophomore Taylor Bennett, who lives in an apartment on South Campus, woke up one morning with what he described as a “fat” face. He went to Heath Services to confirm he had the virus and was then placed in a five-day quarantine at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center on University Avenue.

He said he thinks he may have gotten the mumps from his friends on the women’s lacrosse team.  Both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have already suspended their fall season in response to players getting the virus. In an email on Oct. 6, university officials wrote that sick students appear to be in shared social circles.

Bennett said he didn’t feel too ill. To him, the hardest part was not the mumps; it was the boredom.    

“It’s boring having to be by myself. I watched a ton of Netflix and just did a ton of homework,” he said.

He missed a week of classes because he never left the room. He received $50 a day in hotel room service, which Bennet called “the one nice part."  

Health Services is working with the Onondaga County Health Department to take several precautionary measures to control the mumps. Together, they are educating students, notifying anyone who may have interacted with someone who has the mumps and completely isolating those who do have the virus.

Health Services has sent numerous campus-wide emails and posters to educate students, faculty, and staff about the actions they can take and what the symptoms are.

Common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and swelling of the salivary glands on one or both sides of the face.

Health Services is notifying those who may have encountered the infected. Students who live in the same building, go to the same class, or come into close contact with someone who has the mumps will receive an email. People will only get a phone call if they have been in direct contact with someone who has it, such as a significant other or roommate.

This was the case for Taylor Bennett’s roommate. Health Services notified him that he had direct contact with the disease. Luckily, his roommate did not get sick.

Students with both confirmed and probable cases are typically isolated for one full week away from classes and other campus activities including labs, recitations, the library and tutoring, according to SU Vice Chancellor Michele Wheatly’s email.

Health Services has also established an around-the-clock call center to handle concerns. They have a running track of confirmed and probable cases as well as a frequently asked questions page on their website. 

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