SUNY New Paltz announced that the number of confirmed cases on campus had risen to 12 as of November 7.
Since nine of the diagnosed students are members of the college’s swim team, according to Athletics, Wellness and Recreation director Stuart Robinson, all remaining swim meets this semester have been canceled. Other activities, including campus tours, are being curtailed at the Athletic and Wellness Center and the three dormitories in which the affected students reside: Lenape, Gage and Bouton Halls.
“Under the advice of the New York State Health Department and the Ulster County Health Department, the swim team will not compete against other colleges and universities for the remainder of the semester. Non-infected swimming student athletes may return to practice at Elting Pool on November 28,” reads Robinson’s advisory posted on the SUNY New Paltz website. “As a precaution, Athletics, Wellness and Recreation has canceled its Kids’ Sports Night on November 18.”
“At no time has the swim team been quarantined,” the update specified, contradicting information we reported last week. “Per campus protocol, the college continues to ensure that the affected students, who had been immunized against mumps, have been isolated for the recommended period of time.”
SUNY New Paltz officials did not respond to our request for clarification of the distinction between “quarantined” and “isolated.”
Some have raised the question of why students are getting sick if they have been adequately immunized. “All [full-time] SUNY New Paltz students are required to provide documentation of two measles, one rubella and one mumps immunization or provide documentation of a religious or other exemption,” noted the announcement. Since most Americans receive their mumps immunizations as part of the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine, which is typically administered twice, it is highly likely that the students in question have received more than the minimum single dose required. “Immunizations work but are not 100 percent effective,” said the health advisory.
“A small number of students who have not been immunized have been sent home until November 29, per Ulster County Health Department and the New York State Health Department guidelines,” according to a similar advisory posted by Jack Ordway, MD, director of the Student Health Service. Education efforts on how to reduce exposure to mumps — primarily hand-washing and avoiding sharing eating utensils and drinking vessels — have also been underway on campus. Immunizations are being offered at no cost by the Health Service to students who are unsure as to whether their vaccinations are up-to-date.
Meanwhile, on November 4, nearby Bard College announced that a single case of mumps had been diagnosed on campus “after a probable exposure at an outside event.”
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 non-specific symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and decreased appetite. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the average incubation period for mumps is 16 to 18 days, with a range of 12 to 25 days.