Childhood disease has Cal students lining up for vaccine

October 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
At UC Berkeley, health officials are aggressively trying to stop the spread of a mumps outbreak on campus. There have been only a handful of confirmed cases so far, but because of the long incubation period, the virus could spread.

The mumps outbreak was spotted last week and there are now seven confirmed cases. The campus medical director is concerned because he may not know the true spread of this disease for weeks.

Campus activities are going on as usual at U.C. Berkeley. What isn't usual is the hundreds of Cal students braving the rain and long waits to get the mumps vaccine. The campus clinic gave out 1,000 shots.

"You're in a university, so you're pretty much exposed to so many people like some of my classes have a few hundred people in them. You never know," said Cal student Terry Yu.

The university has confirmed seven cases among students since last week at several campus buildings and Greek sorority and fraternity houses. The school sent out a campus-wide email this week suggesting everyone -- professors, staff, and students -- get the shots.

"It sounded pretty serious and so then I asked my parents who asked our family doctor, and they recommended that I get an additional shot," said Cal student Cliff Engle.

Campus medical director Brad Buchman, M.D., says that many of the infected have had the mumps vaccine in the past. He says a booster shot is recommended because a crowded environment like a university can provide an easy spread of the virus.

"Coughing, sneezing on somebody else being and someone being close enough to have these secretions either land on them or their fingers or their hands," said Buchman.

The symptoms resemble the flu according to the doctor. A student could suffer from fatigue, fever, aches and pains, headache, and loss of appetite. But some students like Loren Thiolemeier said that taking any time off to be sick can threaten her grades.

"You are so far behind, so like you really have to go to school no matter how sick you are," said Thiolemeier.

"The fact that we spend what $70 a day, I think it's broken down to for classes, but honestly, I guess I'm pretty selfish and I'd just go school sick," said Cal student Olivia Filbrandt.

The university wants to stop this outbreak before it spreads.

"The incubation period can be typically 16 to 18 days, but in general, two to four weeks. So people who are sick today or last week, if they're getting others sick, we may not see it for three or four weeks," said Buchman.

The doctor says a sure sign of the virus is swollen glands along the jaw line. The campus clinic will give out more shots for mumps next week. They will also include those shots for the flue and whooping cough. They'll give them at the clinic at campus between noon and 6 p.m.

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