Updated: 3 Northwestern students involved in new mumps cases, health officials say

Maddie Elkins, Summer Reporter

Health officials say they have confirmed three new cases of mumps involving Northwestern students, including two who are currently on campus and one who lives in a town north of Evanston.

The three new cases bring the number of infected students to five, according to Northwestern University Health Service. The NU community was notified of the initial case on June 18, and the first secondary case was confirmed before June 21.

Among the three new cases, two students left campus before they showed symptoms, said Dr. John Alexander, executive director of Health Service. One of them recently returned to Evanston, while the other lives in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

Alexander said the three new cases are probably secondary cases stemming from the initial exposure last month. The student who was first infected was on campus and even went to Dillo Day before going to Health Service with symptoms, Alexander said.

Anyone exposed to secondary cases could develop mumps over the next three weeks, Alexander said. However, secondary cases are unlikely to pass on the virus.

“The fact that people have left campus means that there isn’t the concentration and exposure that there would have been if all students were still on campus,” Alexander said.

Sabrina Miller, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, on Monday confirmed three new cases associated with NU. 

She said the IDPH is aware of eight total cases, three of which are laboratory confirmed. The others are pending laboratory results, came back negative or were not tested.

Alexander said all cases have involved vaccinated patients.

“Usually, if someone’s vaccinated and gets mumps, it’s a milder, more attenuated case, and that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing,” Alexander said. “These people haven’t been really sick.”

(Mumps case confirmed on Evanston campus)

Alexander said “almost everybody” at NU has received the mumps vaccine as a result of both state and school requirements. NU is one of the most compliant schools in the state, with more than 95 percent of students vaccinated against mumps, he said.

Alexander said he believes the situation is under control because of effective communication and widespread awareness after a letter about the first case was sent to the NU community.

“These cases were caught early because of the letter we sent out to people after the first case,” Alexander said. “People were very cognizant of symptoms, so we were able to have these people isolated early so that there’s a reduced risk of them passing on a tertiary case.”

Alexander is hopeful that the outbreak will soon be over. He said Health Service will immediately treat anyone who shows symptoms, offering diagnostic testing and isolating them early.

Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears.

The Evanston Health Department is asking anyone with symptoms to call its Communicable Disease Section, 847-866-2962.

Summer reporter Maddie Elkins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MadeleineElkins.