Campus Sees Reprieve From Mumps Pandemic

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After a total of 69 confirmed or probable cases of mumps associated with SUNY New Paltz, the campus is experiencing no current cases, according to Dr. Richard J. Ordway, director of Student Health Services.

Over the break there were two confirmed cases: one men’s volleyball player and one staff member. The volleyball season was not affected, as the student was cleared over the break prior to three weeks before the start of the season, according to Athletic Director Stuart Robinson. He added that no teams are currently infected.

Robinson said the department has continued to educate the student athletes and handed out free water bottles to prevent the spread of the disease.

“This affects our ability to bring prospective students on campus for overnights,” he said. “As long as the possibility exists we can’t do that and that’s always been a major part of business the coaches do.”

Ordway said that students whose vaccinations are not up to date due to religious or medical exemptions are still being excluded from the campus; if there are no more cases as of Feb. 8 those students will be allowed to return.

“As we’re concerned the outbreak is not over as far until we go those 26 days from the last case and there’s no more cases,” he said. “If that happens then hopefully the health department will say the outbreak’s over.”

Ordway said that the students at SUNY New Paltz handled the outbreak well, with the exception of a little panic toward the end of the semester, and were coming in appropriately with concerns. He added that 1,505 free mumps boosters were distributed at the end of the fall semester in the Student Union Building.

“They were matter-of-fact, they were very upbeat, they came in, they got their shots, hoping to prevent any further problems and went out,” he said.

Students that had to be excluded were affected the most according to Ordway as they lost almost their entire semester. He added that students should continue to be cautious and avoid sharing of utensils, drinking glasses, smoking products and kissing.

“I think you have to be more cautious, now, about the flu than mumps, but the same precautions would hold,” he said. “Try not to exchange saliva, secretions, don’t cough on people, try not to cough into the hand and then touch somebody else. As I’m visualizing this first week of classes that I think that the flu may be more of a problem at this point than the mumps, but we’ll see.”

Robinson said that the outbreak has taken a toll on the way the department operates but takes comfort in the fact that SUNY New Paltz is not the only institution struggling with the pandemic.

“I know we’re not alone in this, this is just one of those years where there’s just been a massive outbreak of the mumps,” he said. “But I think a lot of our people have become very good experts on it and hopefully this dies down soon.”