An email sent to University students late Thursday afternoon stated that one undergraduate student is sick with a “probable” case of the chickenpox virus and noted that another student is has a confirmed case of the mumps virus. According to the email, both students are expected to fully recover.
“This is not an outbreak response,” says Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, director of medical services at University Health Services. “We wanted to let people know so they can take extra precautions, especially if they are at higher risk,” he said. Pletcher and the email noted that high-risk persons include pregnant women, immunocompromised persons, and those infected with HIV/AIDS.
According to the email, chickenpox, known for “an itchy, blister-like rash all over the body” it implies, is spread by physical contact with the virus, breathing in blister particles, or absorbing tiny saliva droplets from infected persons. Individuals who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease, although these individuals’ symptoms are normally milder than symptoms in non-vaccinated patients.
Symptoms of chickenpox include those consistent with a fever or cold, which then develops into the virus’s infamous rash. As the virus takes 10–21 days to display symptoms, it can be spread by an unknowingly infected individual 1–2 days before the rash initially occurs.
Mumps can be spread through coughs and sneezes, sharing utensils and cups, or touching surfaces with the virus. Individuals vaccinated against mumps typically do not contract the virus, although on college campuses or other places where individuals live in close quarters, infection among immunized individuals can still occur.
Symptoms of the mumps include swollen salivary glands as well as fatigue, low-grade fever, and general muscle aches.
Princeton community members can take steps to reduce their risk of contracting either virus. “Handwashing is incredibly, incredibly important throughout the day and ideally using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Avoiding sharing cups and utensils, and anything where people are swapping spit,” Pletcher said.
Students who believe they have symptoms of either ailment should call the McCosh Health Center immediately at 609-258-3141. John Kolligian, executive director of University Health Services, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.