Three cases of mumps confirmed at BU

Boston University said early Wednesday that three undergraduate students have been diagnosed with the mumps virus.
Boston University said early Wednesday that three undergraduate students have been diagnosed with the mumps virus.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File

Three Boston University students have confirmed cases of mumps, as the viral illness continues to spread among college students in the Boston area.

BU officials reported Wednesday that three undergraduates who attend the university’s Charles River campus had come down with mumps, one of them just before last week’s spring break and the others last week. Two live off campus, but university spokesman Colin Riley did not have information on where the third lives.

The sick students were asked to isolate themselves for five days after symptoms started, and students and faculty members who may have come in contact with them were urged in an e-mail to watch for symptoms. Riley said the three students are doing well.


Meanwhile, a second case of mumps has been confirmed at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and lab results are pending on two other students, said spokesman DeWayne Lehman.

Separately, an athlete visiting UMass Boston in February had a confirmed case, and another UMass student is believed to have had mumps but recovered before tests could be conducted.

Harvard University has been hit the hardest, with 13 confirmed cases. Students at Tufts University in Medford and Bentley University in Waltham have also had the illness.

As of Wednesday, health officials had counted 26 cases this year in Massachusetts, but continue to investigate dozens of illness reports.

Nine of the confirmed cases are Boston residents, mostly college students, said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at Boston Public Health Commission. They include the UMass and BU cases as well as a Bentley student who lives in Boston, she said.

Barry said it’s hard to pinpoint links between ill college students, but commonly they attended parties and sporting events at other colleges.

“We’re seeing more cases than we would normally see,” Barry said, despite the high vaccination rates among Boston’s college students. “We’re working with the colleges and others on control measures,” such as requiring those with symptoms to stay out of class.


Although most of the students who got sick had been vaccinated, it’s possible the vaccine didn’t work, or that the virus mutated in ways that made it less effective.

The mumps vaccine doesn’t induce immunity in about 12 percent of people who receive it, so mumps outbreaks occur occasionally even in highly vaccinated populations. The disease can get a foothold quickly in places where people live close together, such as dorms.

Mumps symptoms include puffy cheeks or jaws from swollen salivary glands, as well as fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue.

Felice J. Freyer can be reached felice.freyer@globe.com.