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As confirmed mumps cases increase, SU students can get free booster vaccines

Tom Magnarelli
Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta (right) and state health department Deputy Commissioner Brad Hutton (center) speak Monday about Mumps cases at Syracuse University. At the podium is Dolan Evanovich from Syracuse University.

The number of Syracuse University students confirmed to have mumps has increased to 27 with 45 more probable cases. SU, in partnership with the county and state health departments, will offer a booster dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) to students this week.

Brad Hutton, state health department deputy commissioner, said they will likely see more cases of mumps at SU before the outbreak ends. The disease is highly contagious. But he said the booster dose will help.

"It’s not a panacea," Hutton said. "It’s just an additional strategy to boost immunization rates among the baseline student population. The most important activity will be to refrain from sharing utensils and cups."

Hutton said there are several reasons why the disease has popped up on college campuses including at SUNY New Paltz last year. The MMR vaccine is not perfect. Individuals can infect others without knowing it. And the social behaviors of college students can help the disease spread.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said the decision was made now to offer the booster dose to students as more became infected.

"The hope was maybe it would die down," Gupta said. "Our job is not to create anxiety, not to run ahead of us beforehand, and make sure our information is accurate and based on science, not speculation."

SU athletes were initially exposed to the disease at the end of August. Vaccine clinics will be offered to them first, then to the general undergraduate population. SU will have more than 4,000 doses available to a student population over 15,000.

Symptoms of mumps can include fever, headaches and swollen salivary glands.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.