Health

Most of 12 confirmed cases of mumps in Alachua County involve UF students

Elizabeth Campbell

Twelve confirmed cases of mumps in Alachua County have the University of Florida and the Alachua County Health Department asking people to take proper precautions.

A Health Department spokesman said all of the cases reported are college students, many of them UF students, who may have shared such items as water bottles or utensils. All the people who contracted mumps in Alachua County were vaccinated, according to the spokesman, who said mumps is much less severe in people who are vaccinated.

Caillin Heron urges people to get vaccinated after she woke up with her face unrecognizable, swollen like a "blowfish." The Army second lieutenant who just graduated this month from UF said that, at first, she thought she had a cold, but then she quickly got worse.

"I woke up and I knew I had a fever. You know how you can just tell? So I was freaking out. I took a bunch of ibuprofen. Then my roommate was, like, 'Your face, something is up.' I can’t even open my mouth," Heron told News4Jax via FaceTime on Friday.

Heron said she was diagnosed with mumps, which she thinks she contracted while on the UF campus.

According to the Health Department, Alachua County sees localized outbreaks such as this about every two to five years. Although the 12 confirmed cases this year is higher than the yearly baseline number of zero to two cases, the Health Department spokesman said this has not spread anywhere close to the way a virus, such as the flu, does and that most of the cases involve people who have been in close contact with one another.

The Health Department said 41 states have recently reported an increase in mumps cases, citing more people going without vaccinations as one of the reasons.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of Infectious Diseases with UF Health, said the only true way to prevent the virus is the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

"There’s just a lot of misinformation about what the vaccines do in terms of side effects, which are mostly bogus," Rathore said. "I think it’s important that you get your child immunized at the right time. Rhere is a reason we immunize children for measles, mumps and rubella."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children receive the first dose of the vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. According to the CDC , the vaccine is 88% effective.

Heron encourages people to get vaccinated because she doesn't want this to happen to anyone else, saying that, not only was mumps painful, but it can lead to other health issues in the future.

"For over a week, it was extremely painful. My face just really hurt -- my neck and cheek and hair area," she said. "At one point, I couldn’t even touch my ear, my ear hurt so bad."

UF said it has alerted students about the confirmed cases by sending messages through its campus alert system, which sends out emails and text messages.

The university asks students to take proper precautions as they would with the flu. Practicing good hygiene habits -- such as hand-washing, hand sanitizing and not sharing food and drinks -- can help, but, according to doctors, nothing will prevent the mumps as well as the vaccine.

VIEW: Information on mumps sent out to UF students

Though some UF students have gone home for the summer and haven't been in Gainesville for a couple of weeks, it can take, on average, 16 to 18 days for symptoms of mumps to show up. Those symptoms include fever and swelling on the side of the face and glands.

So far this year, there have been no reported cases of mumps in Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. As of April 26, Florida had less than 19 reported cases of more than 700 nationwide.

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