Parents warned to watch for signs of mumps after cases at West Genesee, SU

Photo: CDC /Alissa Eckert Photo: CDC / A. Harrison and F. A. Murphy)

An urgent search is underway for anyone who's had contact with one of five people known to have contracted mumps in Onondaga County.

One of them is a student at the West Genesee High School in Camillus; the four others are students at Syracuse University.

In a letter sent home to parents, the West Genesee School District said it was notified by the Onondaga County Health Department late Wednesday that one student in the high school had mumps.

West Genesee Superintendent Dr. Chris Brown hopes the mumps are limited to just one child in his district. "In the letter that we sent home we're just making sure that everyone is aware and keeping track of their kids, and if they're experiencing fever or swelling in certain areas, that kind of thing, to go and see their physician," Brown says.

The health department describes mumps as a rare but highly contagious disease that typically starts with fever, headache and muscle aches. Most people also suffer swelling of their salivary glands, causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.

Mumps can be prevented with a vaccine. The CDC says the vaccine is safe and effective, but it's only 88-percent effective when a person gets two doses. Mumps is most easily spread in schools or camps, typically through saliva or mucous.

To prevent it, avoid sharing items like cups or utensils with others and always wash your hands.

The Health Department says all five of the students were vaccinated and all five are not contagious now that the 3-4 day infectious period passed after symptoms flared up last weekend. The students at SU contracted from one another, but health officials says the students in Camillus didn't come into contact with any of them. The department says it's a mystery as to how the first case started.

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