On Jan. 29, 2021, WIU released an official statement regarding a confirmed case of the mumps. The infected WIU student lives off campus in Macomb. The mumps are contagious and can spread in a variety of ways including through exchange of saliva or mucus, which can be transmitted through sneezing, coughing, sharing cups, kissing or even talking. Regular hand washing can go a long way in preventing the spread of this disease. Mumps, however, is also preventable through the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) Vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses, both of which are often administered during infancy. This vaccine prevents measles, mumps, and rubella for life, so any WIU student who has received both doses of the vaccine is not at risk from this Macomb case. Through their statement, Western Illinois University is encouraging students to check their vaccination records to make sure they received two doses of the MMR vaccine, and to get vaccinated if they are not already. Students who show symptoms of the mumps, which include fever, headache, swelling and muscle ache, are under the guidance to isolate and inform the university Beu Health Center via phone immediately.
Western Illinois University students received an email informing them of the mumps case, and many students felt concerned in response to this news. According to sophomore music therapy major Lily Fischer, “I didn’t know [about the mumps case] until we got the email. It’s scary with COVID-19 and now this. I don’t know how someone could have [the mumps] when you’re supposed to be fully vaccinated to attend or take classes here.” Fischer was not the only student to raise concern about vaccinations in response to this case. Sophomore Victoria Webster stated, “I knew about [the mumps case] from the email, but that was all I heard. I felt like, ‘Of course another thing is going wrong.’ It’s another unnecessary stressor, and it also proves how important vaccines are.” COVID-19 has already created a lot of stress for students, as there is constant concern about health and sanitary methods during this time. However, according to these quotes, the mumps case raised some different concerns than COVID-19, because unlike the COVID-19 vaccination, which is not widely available for distribution for the general student population at this time, the MMR vaccination has been widely available since 1967. The MMR vaccine is also a requirement of the Illinois Immunization Law, meaning that it is required for students enrolled in six credit hours or more at Western Illinois University, as well as other state public institutions and K-12 public schools as well.
According to senior elementary education major Katlynn Davis, “There is already a pandemic, and the fact that we are also potentially facing a mumps outbreak is insane. However, we have the skills now in order to combat the spread, because we have been practicing social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing. I hope the outbreak will be minimized due to these precautions.” Because of widespread availability of the MMR vaccine, as well as the precautionary measures that Davis mentioned, an outbreak of the mumps on campus is incredibly unlikely. However, the Western Illinois University mumps case serves as just another reminder for students about the importance of following health guidelines, including wearing a mask, social distancing and regular hand washing, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.