Mumps outbreak near University of Florida

The Alachua County Health Department is warning of an unusual outbreak of the mumps.  Department spokesperson Paul Myers said 12 cases of the illness have been reported to their office.

That number may seem small, but the department said the county’s baseline is between 0 and 2 cases; making this about a 500 percent increase.  However, Myers stressed that the cases are easily traced in this outbreak.

"This is an outbreak between a very close knit group of individuals,” said Myers. “They probably shared utensils, they may have shared drinking vessels."

The health department says that’s the primary means for transmission of the illness. Leaders at the University of Florida confirm they have between 10 and 12 cases of the mumps reported among the students at their Gainesville campus.

"We're currently in the process of reaching out to students to communicate to them through emails and social media to let them know about this,” said University Spokesman Steve Orlando.

Myers said the county does occasionally see outbreaks of the mumps, but this situation is more unusual because the patients are vaccinated.

"These things do happen; it's a phenomenon that's not completely understood,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is possible rare for some vaccinated individuals to get the mumps, however symptoms tend to be much less severe for those folks.

According to the Mayo Clinic the mumps is now considered very rare with fewer than 20,000 cases per year in the US. The clinic’s website says rates have dropped significantly thanks to the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination.

However, the CDC reports mumps cases showing up throughout the country, and Myers said the decline in vaccination rates in Alachua and elsewhere makes these outbreaks more concerning.

Mumps is an illness with flu-like symptoms that is most known for giving patients puffy, swollen cheeks. Myers said it tends to pass through patients with time, but the illness can lead to serious complications.

"Check your vaccination status; make sure you're vaccinated,” he said. “It’s a safe vaccine, it’s an effective vaccine even though we have this outbreak in a group of vaccinated individuals.”