On Wednesday, October 26, SUNY New Paltz issued a terse statement that the Elting Pool in the Athletics and Wellness Center was being closed until further notice, without further explanation. The following day, the mystery was cleared up: A spate of mumps cases had been reported on campus in the previous couple of weeks, and the common denominator among the victims had been narrowed down to participation in the intercollegiate swimming program.
A follow-up statement from Athletics, Wellness and Recreation director Stuart Robinson was released on Thursday, saying that the department had “suspended swim practices and workouts until Friday, November 4, 2016 to allow for time to see if there are any more confirmed cases from other members of the program.” In addition, intercollegiate swim meets scheduled at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey this past Saturday and at Hartwick College in Oneonta this Saturday, November 5, have been canceled.
“The State Health Department indicated that we do not need to close the pool indefinitely and there is minimal risk of transmission,” the official announcement went on to say, but a quarantine has gone into effect. “We have disallowed any current members of the swimming program to serve as lifeguards, participate in general aquatics programming or interface with any of the contracted groups [such as the Hawks Swimming Association and New Paltz High School] for the time being.”
Noting that “the transmission of mumps is through close contact, sharing of utensils, drinking glasses and saliva contact,” the director explained that the five students who had been diagnosed with mumps “have been isolated for the recommended period of time,” following standard campus protocol. The first notification to students that a mumps outbreak was suspected was issued on October 7 by Student Health Services director Dr. Jack Ordway.
All SUNY New Paltz students are required to provide documentation that they have received at least one MMR (mumps/measles/rubella) vaccination, unless they are exempted for religious reasons. “A small number of students who have not been immunized have been sent home during the incubation period,” Robinson’s statement continued. Community trick-or-treating in the SUNY dormitories scheduled for this past weekend was also canceled.
Mumps is caused by a respiratory virus, whose symptoms include painful swelling of the salivary glands near the ears and under the jaw, which can occur on one or both sides of the face. This swelling may be associated with other nonspecific symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and decreased appetite. Outbreaks of mumps were reported in several Long Island communities in August and September of this year.
For information about the reopening date for the Elting Pool, contact the Athletics, Wellness and Recreation Department at (845) 257-3910.