CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 27 (UPI) -- A mumps outbreak that began two months ago at Harvard University is getting worse.
More than 40 students and staff have been struck, despite efforts to isolate patients.
The university's Health Services Director Paul J. Barreira told the Harvard Crimson newspaper that the rise in cases is worrying.
"I'm actually more concerned now than I was during any time of the outbreak," he said. "I'm desperate to get students to take seriously that they shouldn't be infecting one another."
The rapid spread of mumps could even affect graduation ceremonies and other end of school year events, Barreira said.
"The concern is that if there's a spike this week, that means those students expose others, so now we're looking at a potential serious interruption to commencement for students," he said. "Students will get infected, and then go into isolation."
Barreira notified students of the first confirmed case of mumps on March 1. College administrators warned students travelling during spring break to practice good hygiene and keep away from public transportation and crowded areas if they were concerned that they may be carrying the virus.
Since then, nearby colleges such as Boston University and Tufts have reported outbreaks of mumps, as well as the University of Dayton, Indiana University and Miami University in Ohio.
Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling to the salivary glands and cheeks. Symptoms include fever, aching, headache and a loss of appetite. It typically spreads through physical contact with an infected person or surfaces and objects they have touched.
Prior to admittance, all new students at Harvard are required to have the MMRV immunization, which aims to prevent measles, mumps and rubella. The Cambridge Public Health Department stated a month ago that all infected students had received a mumps vaccine prior to contracting the infection, and that 99 percent of undergraduate students at the college had met the state's immunization requirements.
Nearly a dozen students were in isolation as of Monday, according to a university spokeswoman.
Barreira said the increase in incidence of mumps on Harvard's campus can be attributed to students taking inadequate precautions.
"Students are not acting in a responsible way, knowingly exposing other students to the virus," he said. "It's both disappointing and frustrating because I thought we were on the decline."