College sees mumps-like symptoms, but no confirmed cases

by Paulomi Rao | 5/11/16 5:53pm

Dick’s House has not seen any official cases of mumps, despite some students displaying symptoms.
Source: Saphfire Brown/The Dartmouth

While several students in the last two weeks have exhibited symptoms consistent with the mumps, Ann Bracken, director of clinical medical studies at Dartmouth, issued an email statement stating the College has seen no cases of mumps on Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by director of counseling and health resources departments Mark Reed, while awaiting test results from the State Public Health Department, the students have self-isolated and the tests so far have come back negative.

Two weeks ago, students received the first of two emails alerting them of Harvard University’s recent outbreak of mumps, with over 40 cases of the contagious viral infection. Since Harvard first reported its outbreak, Dartmouth’s health services have been in close contact with Harvard’s public health department and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services for guidance in dealing with particular cases and preventing the spread of illness.

Staff at Dick’s House encouraged students to use hand sanitizer before and after physical contact, avoid sharing cups and water bottles and exercise proper cough etiquette. In addition, Bracken noted that being immunized with the MMR vaccine significantly reduces the risk of getting mumps. Reed wrote in an email that these measures are effective in preventing the spread of mumps.

In the event that a student was diagnosed with mumps, NH DHHS requires that they be isolated from others from the time of diagnosis until at least five days after the onset of parotitis, Reed said. In addition, those who have not been immunized and have had close contact with people who develop mumps will require isolation for a period of time determined by the NH DHHS. Nursing staff and the primary care preventative staff will conduct twice-daily “wellness checks” by phone for anyone in isolation, Reed added.

The athletic department has continued to enforce its infection control protocols during the recent contagious symptoms period.

“In the athletic training rooms, we wipe down tables, hard surfaces, and whirlpools,” said Jeffrey Frechette, associate director of sports medicine. “If athletes have concerns, we usually refer them to the health services practices if they think it is more unusual than normal — we want to ensure everyone is healthy.”

Before news of the recent mumps outbreak at Harvard was announced, a Harvard men’s tennis player had come to Dartmouth for a match. The following day, he was diagnosed with symptoms of mumps.

“In most cases teams have agreed there will not be a post-game handshake,” Frechette said. “It’s probably overcautious even with the threat of mumps but we still don’t share water sources and are staying vigilant, watching for students who have symptoms that may be at all related.”

Bracken also reported that while campus does not have what she would characterize as a complete outbreak of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, there have been a few diagnosed cases at Dick’s House in the past weeks.

“If we see someone with pink eye we ask that they do not come in for treatment until it’s under control,” Frechette said. “We also try to educate people on good hygiene practices—not sharing towels, eating utensils, personal items to promote safer habits.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the four main causes of pink eye are viruses, bacteria, allergens and irritants that infect the eye or eyelid lining. Each year during the spring term, Dick’s House staff see an increase in cases of pink eye. Frechette said he believes it’s more prevalent in the warmer weather because added pollen in the air and extra time spent outdoors causes additional eye irritants.