NEWS BULLETIN: USD takes steps after mumps case

NEWS BULLETIN: USD takes steps after mumps case
With the school reporting its first confirmed mumps case, University of South Dakota faculty, staff and students born after Dec. 31, 1956, will be banned from campus after Monday noon without proof of immunity or vaccination.

Students, faculty members and staff who are not immune and unable to submit to a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot on medical or religious grounds will not be allowed on campus.

The school has had eight suspected cases in the past month, but none were positive until this week, said Terisa Remelius, the USD dean of students.

"We received our first confirmed case Monday night. She was a student living in the residence hall," Remelius said, noting the student's medical isolation ended Thursday.

A small percentage of students have not had the required two MMR shots, and they have been contacted, Remelius said.

The USD action follows a state Health Department directive adopted April 25 by the Board of Regents. The policy also covers vendors who work on campus, school officials said. The campus ban would include classrooms, offices, residence halls, laboratories, dining halls and fraternity and sorority houses.

Besides the confirmed case, three students suspected of mumps are living in isolation with lab tests under way, Remelius said. Four suspected cases tested negative, she said.

The first mumps case comes at a crucial time in the school year, Remelius noted. USD begins finals week Monday, with commencement slated May 13 at the DakotaDome. Graduates and visitors who feel ill are asked not to attend graduation, but the school has placed no restrictions on the ceremony, she said.

In suspected mumps cases, students, faculty and staff are isolated and not allowed to attend classes, work or other campus activities. Students living on campus are sent home until they are no longer contagious as determined by the South Dakota Department of Health or until the mumps tests are negative.

USD officials have devised a plan for faculty, students and staff who are banned from campus because they do not meet Monday's deadline or are in isolation for mumps, Remelius said.

"For students excluded from campus, faculty could give them incompletes or work with them over the summer until they complete their coursework," she said. "If a faculty member is excluded, we will have someone to proxy the exam."

The state Health Department is offering a free vaccination clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (Thursday) at the Coyote Student Center, Remelius said. Those who cannot prove their immunity or who do not have the proper vaccination are encouraged to receive shots, she said.

With many adults unable to locate medical records or show other immunization proof, Remelius thinks today's vaccination clinic may draw a large share of the 1,200 university employees. She encouraged use of the free clinic, as the student health service charges $40 for a vaccination, increasing to $52 on May 15.

"We expect a very big outreach, especially among faculty and staff. We are anticipating the possibilities of long lines early in the day," Remelius said. "We are asking people to follow (an alphabetical) system and come during certain times so we can eliminate a huge rush. If that schedule doesn't work for someone, they can come at a different time."

Person who receive a shot at today's clinic won't be excluded from campus, Remelius said.

"If you got a shot during your childhood, you can get the second shot (Thursday)," she said. "But if this is your first shot, you have to wait 28 days to get the booster. They are looking to offer a second clinic, but the date has not been announced."

Individuals who were born before January 1, 1957, are not considered susceptible to mumps and are not required to provide any documentation, Remelius said. However, they are eligible to obtain a booster at a Department of Health sponsored clinic, she said.

Remelius said she couldn't predict whether USD will see more mumps cases. School officials have tried to reach those in close contact with the person suspected of mumps, she said.

However, the task can become impossible, particularly for students living in residence halls, Remelius said.

"You try to limit exposure," she said, "but at times it's like having 200 of your closest friends together in a lecture hall or dining room."

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